The first Wednesday in October was national Coffee with a Cop Day. To celebrate the day, members of the Warrensburg Police Department, UCM Public Safety, Missouri Highway Patrol, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and Whiteman Air Force Base were at Wendy’s talking to community members.
“It’s the third annual and was actually started by a police officer out in California,” Warrensburg Police Chief Rich Lockhart said. “It was designed to create an opportunity for people to meet and talk to police officers when there isn’t any agenda or any motive, just kind of meet people over a cup of coffee.”
Lockhart said it was a good way to break the ice with the community and get people talking about what they want to talk about.
“It’s been fantastic. I met some guys and we talked about old cars,” Lockhart said. “I met with my City Council members and we talked about community concerns. I met some other guys and we just talked about the weather and I thanked them for letting me invade their coffee spot.”
There were even some former UCM faculty who stopped in.
“Some previous and retired professors were here so we talked with them a little bit as well and their times teaching at the university,” said Chief Scott Rhoad, director of Public Safety.
Lockhart said this was the first year security forces from Whiteman were invited to come.
“They’re the police on base. We thought we’d create an opportunity for them to come, so it’s like a mix of everybody talking and learning about each other,” Lockhart said.
A good conversation starter was a pink badge some of the officers were wearing.
“It also lets people know that we have people who are affected by cancer in our lives as well,” Lockhart said. “It’s becoming part of the community and letting people know that we’re all in this together.”
The officers want positive contact with community members and this was an opportunity that allowed that.
“One of the things I’ve tried to do since I’ve been here, one of my real driving forces, is creating opportunities for a positive contact with the police when we’re not on a call for service, so that’s what this does,” Lockhart said. “Most of the time, your contact with the police is going to be because you’ve been a crime victim, you had your car broken into, you’re under arrest, you had too much to drink down on Pine Street, or you’re getting a traffic ticket because you were speeding. None of those are pleasant experiences, so something like this helps people see that, one, police are just like you are; two, that we have the same interests and three, we really are just here to help and keep our community safe.”
Rhoad said the event was proactive outreach.
“This just makes that opportunity a lot easier because it’s not a negative contact already, trying to turn it positive, it can just be positive right from the get go,” Rhoad said.