The premise seems fairly simple. Cops join local residents at a nearby restaurant to pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee and discuss community issues.
The Aiken Department of Public Safety’s newly developed Coffee with a Cop program, however, is designed not just to let locals enjoy a cup of coffee, but to build and bind the community in the long-term.
The event, held recently at the McDonald’s on York Street, was considered the first of its kind in South Carolina, showing Aiken Public Safety is trying to lead the way when it comes to garnering public feedback and reaching out to the community.
The purpose of the program, originally established in California, is to bring together community members in a neutral space to figure out what’s best locally. Cops and local residents are intended to have casual conversations, helping both to determine what’s best for the community in the future.
Cpl. Jennifer Bickel with the Aiken Department of Public Safety estimated about 25 residents came and spoke to officers during the hour they were in the restaurant for the inaugural event in Aiken.
“Some people from neighborhoods want to talk about what’s going on in their neighborhoods. I stress that we’re interested in the good and the bad,” Bickel said.
Public Safety’s push to garner more feedback helps not only in easing community relationships, it helps law enforcement’s efforts to keep communities safe by encouraging neighbors to help protect one another.
The program also gels effectively with Public Safety’s Aiken Safe Communities initiative, a program which helps to put chronic violent offenders on notice of the crimes they are committing.
Such community oriented events help residents become more familiar with officers in an atmosphere that is fortunately not an emergency or stressful situation. These are more relaxed, personal settings that can foster community cohesion.
It’s commendable to see members of public safety reaching out to local residents to find the best path forward for Aiken.
Public Safety is hopeful they can hold Coffee with a Cop each month in an effort to get more local residents to take advantage of the program. August’s event is scheduled for McDonald’s on Pine Log Road. Any local cafe or restaurants interested in hosting the program in the future should call Bickel at 803-642-7620 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.