Miami Gardens Police officers want to show residents their friendlier side.
The department has embarked on an outreach initiative to interact with residents and business owners in a laid-back environment.
It’s called Coffee with Cops.
Once a month, officers host an informal meet-and-greet with neighbors at a local restaurant. The police department picks up the tab for coffee while residents trickle in to discuss neighborhood concerns or just to enjoy a morning cup of joe.
“Basically, it’s a way for us to interact with the residents when we are not writing them tickets or being called to their homes for a burglary or domestic violence situation. Those are negative interactions,” Deputy Chief Paul Miller said. “In this instance, we can sit down with a senior, a business owner, a single mom and listen to their concerns about what’s going on in their community.”
The coffee sit-downs are not a novel idea. Departments across the country have used the Coffee with Cops program to engage residents.
The goal is to build trust, Miller said.
“In every community, there are trust issues with the police that we have to work on,” he said.
The one-on-one interactions could sway once-reluctant residents to report crimes or suspicious activity, and it gives police a chance to provide updates about their latest prevention efforts, community events and crime statistics.
Resident Oswald Sands recently attended a Coffee with Cops event at Prince J’s Soul Food with his wife, Cornelia Sands
He said he was happy to meet the officers who patrol his neighborhood. It was his second time attending the coffee affair, which started in April.
“It’s important to stay in contact with the cops. If we get to know them, I feel like they might listen to us more about what’s happening in our neighborhood, said Sands, 77. “When we were unincorporated, we didn’t have this kind of luxury. Look around our city — things have gotten better.”
At a recent gathering, Miller said he met a couple who walk two miles at 6:30 a.m. every morning in their neighborhood.
“I was able to introduce them to the captain of that area. Now the captain knows who they are and can look out for them during their walks, and they know they can contact him if they run into any problems,” Miller said.
The next Coffee with Cops will take place sometime in July, but the time, date and location has not yet been determined.
For residents who have participated in the morning meetings, they say they hope the police continue with more outreach events
“If anything is happening in our community, we need to know we can turn to a person,” said Cornelia Sands, 72. “It was nice for the officers to reach out to the residents so we can get to know them better and for them to know us.”