In recent years, the Tustin Police Department has organized Coffee with a Cop gatherings as a way to meet with residents in an informal setting, have a cup of coffee, and chat about issues of concern in the community.
The gatherings help the police break down barriers and shatter some misconstrued perceptions, giving residents the opportunity to view the police as their neighbors and advocates, not their adversaries.
While Tustin Police Department’s Coffee with a Cop on Dec. 4 at the Tustin Family and Youth Center on Newport Avenue furthered that mission, another purpose was to get the word out about a Town Hall that takes place 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 11 at Heideman Elementary, 15571 Williams St. in Tustin.
The upcoming Town Hall will be an opportunity for city officials, the Tustin Police Department, community advocates, and graduates of the Tustin Police Department’s Spanish Citizens Academy to have a dialogue with residents and let them know the Tustin PD’s mission is to protect and support all members of the community.
Officer Matt Roque, who organized Coffee with a Cop, said Tustin residents, regardless of immigration status, should call the police if they need help or witness a crime and should “not worry about anything that is going on in the state or the country on a political level.”
“In large part, we want people to know that we are their Tustin Police Department,” Roque said. “We are there for them. Our job is to make Tustin as safe as it can be and to make sure the quality of life for the residents is as high as it can be … If people are afraid to call the police, we don’t know what is going on and we can’t help them. By coming here in a relaxed environment, we are learning a lot.”
OC Human Relations, a nonprofit aimed at addressing prejudice and resolving conflict, partners with Tustin PD on a variety of initiatives and will have members in attendance at the Town Hall.
“I think it’s great,” said OC Human Relations specialist Juan Villavicencio about Coffee With a Cop. “Especially sharing information (with residents on how) to advocate for themselves on issues that need to start with the actual residents and really can’t be police driven.”
After speaking with several residents at Coffee with a Cop, Roque had tabulated a list of issues and concerns.
“I’m interested in the security of the community,” resident Lucia Ramirez said. “By meeting with the police, I’ll be more informed and I’ll know how to act if I see something. I like that (the police) are coming out in the community and talking about everything, not just police work, but the community itself.”
“Events like this Coffee with a Cop and the upcoming Town Hall meeting are what helps our department continue to strengthen our relationship with our community and ultimately helps make Tustin a better place to live or work,” Acting Captain Brian Greene said.
The Tustin PD looks to continue with community events such as these as well as other community outreach programs throughout the upcoming year.