'Coffee With A Cop' Brings Officers And The Public Together
"My perception of cops was formed at a very early age and it wasn't good," said Haley Seabrook, a young woman living near the Brent neighborhood in Pensacola. Like most people living in the city, her interactions with police have been pretty much limited to traffic stops. "I saw this as an opportunity to change that."
Seabrook and several other members of the community gathered together at the Drowsy Poet Coffee Shop last week for the latest installment of the Escambia County Sheriff's Department’s Coffee with a Cop, an ongoing series of meetings around the county where people are invited to come and share a caffeinated conversation with some of the officers that patrol their neighborhood. The program started earlier this summer. SenaMaddison, public Information officer for the Escambia County Sherriff’s office says they want to reach out to the entire county. "We don't always have them in coffee shops. We had one recently at University Pines, which is a retirement community."
Lieutenant Mike Ward was engaged in conversation with Haley Seabrook throughout the hour long event. He says the chance to sit one on one is a chance to change minds and attitudes on both sides of the table. "What we're hearing the most is that they've never sat down and had a conversation with a cop. (Seabrook) had this perception that cops thought everyone was bad. She wanted to take that opportunity so say 'you know, I'm gonna, for lack of a better (term) extend that olive branch and just sit down and talk to a cop."
And, for her part, Seabrook is spreading the word among her friends that perhaps the police should be given a second look. "I posted on Facebook that I was attending and people were like 'What are you doing?'. But now I'll let them know I would recommend anyone to attend and reach out."
Seabrook says she plans on visiting the police academy and hopes to go on a ride-along with officers during one of their patrols. Lieutenant Ward says that changing one mind can go a long way towards easing the tension between the police and the public. "We don't get called when things are going good. The only time people call are when things are bad or they have a problem. And we're expected to solve that problem. If we don't solve it to their liking, then we're the bad guys. We're not perfect. We're not machines. We're gonna make mistakes." Ward also admits the dialog has to go both ways. "We can be a little more open minded on our side as well. It's gonna take both ways to make it happen."
The Escambia county Sheriff's Department is hoping to have a Coffee with a Cop event a couple of times a month throughout the year. They’ll be attended by the officers who patrol the neighborhood where the event is being held. If you have a suggestion or a request about having one of these events in your neighborhood, email firstname.lastname@example.org or you can go the Escambia County Sherriff’s page on facebook.