Coffee with a Cop in Phoenix had a very basic start. In 2001 two Phoenix Police officers working patrol in our Cactus Park Precinct started meeting with a few citizens for breakfast at a small restaurant in their precinct area. They met as often as radio calls for service permitted.
This went on for a few years, but there were no regularly scheduled gatherings. During one such gathering, one of the citizens received a phone call. He told the caller, “I can’t talk right now; I’m having coffee with a cop”. Since that time the gatherings were called “Coffee with a Cop”. Residents from different neighborhood groups would just show up to share information, get advice, or to just socialize. In 2004 one of the officers decided to schedule the gatherings for every Wednesday morning.
These gatherings were informal, with no agendas or guest speakers. Citizens from different neighborhoods were encouraged to network and exchange ideas with each other. As the word spread, representatives from the Police Department, City Council, Zoning, and other city departments would frequently attend the gatherings and answer questions from the community.
One of the “founding” officers became a Community Action Officer for his precinct and continued the meetings.
Due to the popularity of the program, in 2007 that same officer authored a request to make “Coffee with a Cop” an official police department program. Realizing the value of “Coffee with a Cop”, the Phoenix Police Department adopted the program almost immediately.
Though the program varies from precinct to precinct, the basic concept remains the same. We get the word out to our citizens through the use of newsletters, e-mail lists and twitter, and the city and precinct web sites. In some cases community groups echo our future events as does the city council web sites and e-newsletters. Some of our precincts even host a quarterly “Dinner with a Cop”!
Some keys to starting a similar program:
Contact your area restaurants/coffee shops before doing anything else to generate interest.
We have found the use of smaller “mom & pop” type establishments offer the best atmosphere for the program and the proprietors are sometimes more receptive to the idea; the program does generate business. Having said this, as the program progressed and became more popular, we began rotating the locations.
It is incredibly important that the officer(s) involved are personable and dedicated to the success of the program.
Make contact with your citizens via whatever media outlets your department uses and outline the program idea to see if there is an interest (I’m sure there will be). The program should be “pitched” as social and informal, it will evolve on its own.
All costs (food and beverage) are paid by the individual attendee.