‘Community builder’: Berkeley police, residents interact at ‘Coffee with a Cop’ event

Manooshree Patel/Staff

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Dozens of community members, several Berkeley Police Department officers and a UCPD officer gathered outside the Royal Ground Coffee House on Thursday morning for a monthly “Coffee with a Cop” event hosted by the nonprofit organization of the same name.

Event attendees inquired about city crime, public safety, Berkeley’s homeless population and traffic situations. They also asked about BPD’s staffing issues, since 80 percent of BPD officers had considered leaving the department amid heightened city crime rates, according to a survey conducted by the Berkeley Police Association.

“There is no agenda — just time for us to mingle with community members,” said BPD Officer Jumaane Jones.

Berkeley resident Kenneth Gary, who attended the event, said residents do not often have the opportunity to “meet with their police face-to-face.” He added that he hopes similar events will take place more frequently, since they make people “less agitated” about interacting with officers.

Berkeley resident Jeff Braelt, who has attended several Coffee with a Cop events, said he came to express concerns about speeding and auto theft in his neighborhood.

“It’s good because it gives the public a chance to see the face of the police department,” Braelt said. “They’re usually in their cars, so it’s a rare opportunity to interact with members of the police department.”

Event attendee Marie Banks echoed these sentiments, stating that the event is a “great community builder” for attendees and officers.

According to its website, Coffee with a Cop is an organization started by the Hawthorne Police Department in 2011. The website states that community policing “has long been considered a framework for establishing trust between the community and the police,” hence its mission to unite law enforcement officials with the communities they serve.

Coffee with a Cop events are held throughout California, with many taking place in the Bay Area, according to the website. BPD spokesperson Officer Byron White said these events have been held for at least one year.

Each meeting is held at a different location and aims to connect the Berkeley community with local law enforcement, White said. Those who attended had the opportunity to speak individually with local officers, ask them questions and voice their concerns.

BPD plans to continue hosting Coffee with a Cop on a monthly basis, according to White. He said the next event will be held Oct. 3, on National Coffee with a Cop Day.

“Anything that the police can do to get out there, I’m all for,” said Michael Sherman, a member of the Police Review Commission. “I want a safe community, and I care very much at the same time for the safety of police officers. To do that, it has to be a partnership.”

Contact Mallika Seshadri at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SeshadriMallika.