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Coffee and Conversation: Coffee with a Cop


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By Sharon Mejia and Tiarra Braddock


 “Coffee with a Cop” event flyer

On Oct. 7, Gimme! Coffee in Ithaca hosted “Coffee with a Cop” day where the police and the community came together to discuss issues over a free cup of coffee.

This initiative was started by the Hawthorne Police Department in California in 2011 in response to tensions between the police and the community.

This year marked the first national “Coffee with a Cop” day, which was all about breaking down barriers and putting no restrictions on conversations between the police and community members.

This event has received funding from the United States Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and has reached thousands of agencies across the United States and abroad.

Ithaca residents spoke with two Ithaca Police Department (IPD) officers about police involvement and police brutality in the community, as well as many other issues.

Although there were about 10 people in attendance throughout the event, only one resident and one officer agreed to comment. The other residents and officer declined to speak.


Ithaca Police Department Officers and Ithaca Residents at the “Coffee with a Cop” event

Fred Cederstrom is one of the Ithaca residents who took part in Coffee with a Cop”.

Cederstorm said that he attended the event because he wanted to address an issue he witnessed between IPD officers and community members outside of his home.

“There were a few officers with handguns brandished getting these people out of the car and I thought that it was a bit of an unjustified action,” Cederstrom said. “It made me feel very unsafe, especially because my 7-year-old daughter plays daily in that playground.”

Public Information Officer Jamie Williamson has been with the IPD for 11 years  was present at the “Coffee with a Cop” event.


Officer Jamie Williamson at the Ithaca Police Department

Officer Williamson said there were people there to show support to the police, and there were others who were there to discuss issues like the one Cederstrom brought up.

“He [Cederstrom] was questioning the authority of the Ithaca Police Department or the procedures of the Ithaca Police Department and whether or not that response was necessary….We want that support of the community so it’s great to have it,” Officer Williamson said. “If we don’t have it, we welcome conversations with folks who don’t support us or who question us so we can better serve our citizens.”

Officer Williamson spoke about transparency being key in conversations and interactions with the community.

“We want the folks in our community to know what we do and why we do what we do. Just as well, we hope the folks in our community have invested interest in what goes on in their neighborhoods,” Officer Williamson said. “So for these ‘Coffee with a Cop’ programs, they are an official program today but we want everyday to be ‘Coffee with a Cop’ program.”

In April and May 2015, the City of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick and IPD Chief of Police John Barber created a community-oriented ‘coffee chat’ called “Coffee with the Mayor and Chief.” Chief Barber and Mayor Myrick visited local coffee shops to provide Ithaca residents with the chance to get together and discuss local and national issues. Unlike “Coffee with a Cop,” this event was not born from a national initiative, but both events have the same goal, providing a connection between public officials and the community.

According to the “Coffee with a Cop” official website, this program has been growing throughout all 50 states and nine different countries in four languages. More than 2,000 law enforcement agencies and communities have participated in this event.

As part of National Community Police week (Oct. 3-7), “Coffee with a Cop” is aimed at bridging relationships between the police and the people, while sparking conversations about issues that matter.

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