KINGSBURG – It’s not every day you get your morning cup of jo handed to you by an officer of the law. That’s the surprise some customers received during the national Coffee with a Cop event at Kingsburg’s McDonald’s Oct. 3. Similar events took place in Selma and across the nation and even across the globe.
Kingsburg’s Chief Neil Dadian said the casual conversation over coffee gives residents a chance to get to know the officers behind the badge as real people. Many of the officers live in town, or very nearby, so they too are residents and have the same concerns as everyone else.
“Our kids go to school here, we go to church here and we shop here. We want to be seen as members of the community and not just the police.”
The national event is once a year, but Dadian said more of the coffee talks will likely be scheduled for other times throughout the year.
Another recent event Kingsburg officers attended was the Harvest Moon Festival at Memorial Park. While some had questions about specific concerns, Dadian said most residents just stopped by just to say ‘hello.’
“Sometimes, it’s traffic related because nobody wants to get a ticket, but most of the time people just come and visit with us and that’s great.”
So while officers greeted patrons, served up coffee and chatted with folks having breakfast that morning, other officers even stepped behind the counter to pose for pictures with the restaurant’s crew and learn what they do to feed hungry patrons.
Sgt. Shaun Stephens was among officers talking with residents that morning. He’s been an officer in Kingsburg for his entire nearly-18 year career now and said it’s the people in town that have kept him on the staff.
“This community is a very good community to work for. The citizens like the officers here and it’s been a good experience. I enjoy being able to talk with people instead of going from call to call to call. You don’t get to know people that way.”
Stephens said while this was their first event, he’s aware that Coffee With a Cop started in the Los Angeles area with the Hawthorne Police Department in 2011 and “it’s just caught fire. It’s in 18 countries all over the world and today’s the national one.”
Residents don’t typically interact with officers until there’s an emergency. During those circumstances, there’s little time for every day conversation. The purpose of this informal event gave attendees a relaxed setting in which to ask questions.
“This is for us to get to know the citizens better and for them to get to meet us,” Stephens said. “We don’t get to talk with a lot of the citizens on a daily basis. We don’t go to their house on calls and things like that. But here, they can get to know us on a different level. We’re just people like them. We’re coaches and sons and we do all the normal things, we just chose to become police officers.”
Stephens did offer some common-sense safety tips for residents since crime is always a concern to residents of all ages:
- Drivers: Lock your doors and keep your windows rolled up. Don’t leave things in cars that people will see. Criminals will commit crimes of opportunity when they walk by and see something like a GPS. They can get in there real quick and take it. So take the extra steps to protect yourself. When you see something that doesn’t seem quite right, give us a call.
- Students and pedestrians: Don’t be so glued to your devices. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t put yourself in a situation where you could be hurt because you’re not paying attention. We talk with the kids about paying attention. The latest update on Facebook isn’t always the important thing.
- Parents and commuters: Give yourself enough time to get to your destination and get your kid dropped off to school on time. My own child comes to school here in Kingsburg, but we live outside of Selma. We leave early enough to make sure he’s here on time and we’re not fighting traffic. It’s just a matter of being prepared and not running late and being in a hurry.
Kingsburg resident Elizabeth Olveda stopped in specifically for the coffee talk.
“I just wanted to get to know the officers here in town. I also wanted to know if there’s more crime here in town. I’m glad it’s been keeping the same and that’s what I like about this town. It’s pretty quiet, there are good citizens and there are not too many crimes.”
Olveda said she was glad to hear that more officers were hired through the Measure E funding and thinks it’s smart to keep growing the department as the city’s population slowly, but surely, increases.
“It’s a small town, but it’s growing so we need more officers to keep crime at a low level.”