DOBSON — Law enforcement officers from at least five different agencies throughout Surry County were on hand at Surry Community College recently for the first local Coffee with a Cop event.
The gathering was part of a national effort that had its origins in 2011 in Hawthorne, California, as a way to, “interact more successfully with the citizens they served each day,” according to the website coffeewithacop.com. “The Hawthorne Police Department hit upon a simple plan to break through the barriers that have been built over the years — a cup of coffee.”
Although this program can be found in every state and even other countries, according to community college student organizer Maggie Hoilman, “[Saturday was] the first time this has been done with Surry County officers,” she said of the April 22 event.
“One of my main goals with implementing this program was to set building blocks of relationships with sponsors in place for departments to be able to build upon and expand this program and continue working with those sponsors,” Hoilman said. She added that she would like to see the program continued on a monthly basis. “Sheetz expressed to us their desire to be a continuing sponsor for these events and to make available the use of their facilities to host them.”
Elkin Police Officer Newell Hauser enjoyed the event but stated he thinks it would be nice to do the county event no more than twice a year though, “it would be good to do one locally [within the town of Elkin] once a month.”
“It can help people understand what happens with law enforcement and let people get to know their officers one-on-one,” acknowledged Hauser, who described Saturday’s event as, “mostly criminal justice students who were asking about what it was like to be an officer. There were also citizens there asking about what happens if you get arrested and procedures for doing an investigation. It was good for people who were just curious about law enforcement and how it works.”
The Coffee with a Cop website describes these interactions between officers and community members as, “[opening] the door for interactions outside of the crisis situations that typically bring law enforcement officers and community members together.”
“It seemed to me like it was a good thing,” Hauser said.
“We are hoping to make this event a regular occurrence,” said Hoilman, who had the assistance of fellow student Emilio Lopez and faculty advisor Mary Burton in organizing Saturday’s activities. Sponsors included Sheetz in Dobson, Sheetz in Mount Airy, and McDonald’s 601 in Mount Airy as well as Surry Community College. “Moving forward with this event we hope to garner even more community support.”