A couple of years ago, the San Leandro Police Department instituted a “coffee with the cops” program. The Police Chief and/or several of her officers would meet with the community to give a general talk on the state of crime in the city and answer questions.
I attended several of these coffees and they were very interesting and helpful. However, they never attracted much of a crowd – and those who went were not what you would call representative of the San Leandro community. By far most of the participants were middle age or older and white. Their complaints were what you would expect: noise, annoying neighbors, burglaries (problematic in parts of San Leandro), and more annoying neighbors . After a while, the Police gave up on these coffees. They still have them, but much more rarely.
A few days I was reading a column by Joel Stein in Time magazine and realized what the problem may have been. All of the coffee with the cops the SLPD has hosted, have been at restaurants that are frequented by San Leandro old-timers. Places like Elios, Sergio’s Pizzeria, The Englander, the Marina Inn, Sabino’s and Dick’s. The LA cop that Stein mentions on his column, holds his coffees at McDonalds. And it’s just him, one cop, not the Chief plus 6 or 7 officers, which can be pretty intimidating to people from disadvantaged or minority groups.
Now, that seems like a great idea. Why not have a couple of officers do “coffees with the cops” at fast food joints, “tacos with the cops” at one of the many taquerias, or “unhealthy drink” with the cops wherever young people hang out?
I think they should give it a try.