Coffee with Cops at McDonald’s
I decided I’d focus my next three or four articles on the LAPD’s Community Outreach program because policing is front-page news these days. Communities are struggling to find a way to find middle ground between cops who use too much force and cops who want to be part of local communities. When I found an article on the web titled: Coffee with Cops at McDonald’s, I couldn’t resist finding more about the cops who worked out of the LAPD’s 77th Street Division at Crenshaw and Florence.
The article fascinated me, cheered me, and reminded me of Jigsaw’s belief that the way to create an understanding between cops and their communities, was not to drive around the neighborhood in their police cars, eat donuts at the local snack shop and chat with a few folks. This isn’t what the policemen at the 77th Division did.
They made a date to drop into the local McDonalds and meet the folks. What pulled me into the story was a simple idea–the best way to get to know people and understand them is to meet them on their turf.
That’s what happened with the Cops who came to McDonald’s.
The police officer who narrated the video was proud of this event. He said the purpose of the Cops and Coffee get-together was to interact with the community so residents might realize they are just like us. There will be problems–certainly. But it was uplifting to watch the officers relating to the men, women, kids, and grandkids in the community like friends, not adversaries.
The photos told the story: a Caucasian policeman probably in his sixties, sat across the table from an African American woman about the same age who smiled at him as if he was a friend of the family. The group photo of the Cops and the McDonald’s workers (with the Lieutenant in the background smiling) looked like best friends at a lunch outing. The photo of a handsome, young policeman taking a drive-in order from a woman wearing big, checkered sunglasses made me laugh, and my favorite was a female officer at the counter handcuffing an older woman who probably never dreamed she’d be having this much fun wearing cuffs.
Community police work is not just important. It’s critical to establish lines of communication between the policemen and the communities they serve.
The reason this story and these photos resonated with me like they did is I lived those experiences with John St. John.
I watched him console one of his favorite waitressed at Denny’s when she told him about her son’s difficulties with drugs and alcohol. I listened to him congratulate the elevator operator at the Parker Center when he learned of his daughter’s graduation from college. I prepared his lecture noted for talks he gave at police academies and other law enforcement agencies. They all had similar same messages.
The role of a police officer is more than fighting crime. The motto is on every LAPD patrol car: To Protect and Serve.
The officer’s last words about the LAPD Community Outreach program: “Join us in Our Success.”
There will be another outreach program next week. I plan to check it out.