Apparently a lot of people in South Orange want to have coffee with cops.
The basement of the First Baptist Church of South Orange was crowded with police officers and community members on Thursday night, April 23, as South Orange Police Chief James Chelel, Communications Officer Sgt. Adrian Acevedo and the Rev. Terry Richardson invited the community to meet and mingle.
Coffee with a Cop is one of two new efforts at community outreach (the other is Positive Behavior Citations) spearheaded by the police department and the Township of South Orange. South Orange Trustee and public safety liaison Sheena Collum was present as were Trustees Deborah Davis Ford and Howard Levison.
“Very often the only time people interact with a police officer is during a difficult time,” said Chelel. “This program allows citizens to interact with the police and get to know each other on a more personal level.”
Rev. Richardson also invited Maplewood Police Chief Robert Cimino and Maplewood police officers to attend.
Richardson was clearly excited about the turnout and the future potential for the event.
“I see this as a collaborative effort,” said Richardson. “My aim — with the Town and Chief Chelel — is to debunk the myth that law enforcement are intimidating and that our youth are afraid of police.” Richardson said that police “do a great job” in South Orange and he wants the community and youth to see “police as friends.”
“This is another opportunity to chisel away at myths,” said Richardson.
The Rev. Dr. Lee Spitzer, who is the Executive Director of the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey, was also present. Spitzer said he wanted to see how the event went in order to consider similar efforts in other churches and towns throughout the state.
Sgt. Acevedo agree with Richardson about debunking myths. “We have an opportunity to engage and interact with the public on a laid back, more human level,” said Acevedo. “So often we are seen as just a uniform, a robot, the guy writing a ticket or interacting with you at your worst time but behind the badge we are people too. We have the same concerns and gripes, we complain about taxes and want the best for our kids. We want people to know that we are very much equal.”
Coffee with a Cop will continue quarterly. Watch this space for an announcement of the next date and venue.
Click on any image below to see a brief slideshow from the event.