Coffee With a Cop is a thing of the past. At least in Covington it is.
The Covington Police Department hosted Cookie With a Cop at the Chick-fil-A in Covington on Jan. 30.
This is the first time Covington PD has has hosted this particular event, according to Covington Police Chief Andrew McCurdy.
He explained this was his attempt at getting more community members together to come and enjoy cookies and coffee with police officers to get to know them on a more personal level.
“I’ve tried to a lot of different experimentation with different community events where I can interact with the public. It’s really been a struggle to get people to show up. I’ve done a lot in the evenings like with homeowner associations or other public events, or just giving people an opportunity to show up and it’s usually one or two people show up,” McCurdy said.
McCurdy said he got this idea from the Puyallup Police Department. He said that department has done Cookie With a Cop before and hosted it at the Chick-fil-A over there.
That’s when McCurdy said he mentioned the idea to the owner of the the Chick-fil-A in Covington, Marc Schuh, who then suggested having their own Cookie With a Cop.
McCurdy said he considered this event a success because more than one or two people showed up.
“It’s hard to get people from the public to show up. They have busy lives and such. It was kind of interesting, a lot of the people that showed up, a lot of them were stay at home moms with kids. That group of people typically feel very vulnerable because they’re home alone and most of the neighborhoods in Covington are pretty vacant during the day when everyone is at work,” McCurdy explained. “When a lot of crimes happen, that’s a group of people that can be our best witnesses and also because they feel vulnerable there’s a lot we can do to teach them how to be a good witness and how to not be victimized and so on.”
He said this worked in the department’s favor because McCurdy said the goal was to reach out to a group of people the department may not get to speak with as often since most of the events for meeting local officers happen in the evening in order to meet those who work during the day’s schedules.
The moms were very open and responsive and asked a lot of good questions to the officers, according to McCurdy.
He also said a few kids from Kentlake High School showed up first thing in the morning as well.
Of those students, one stuck out to McCurdy most.
This student was in his weightlifting club a few years ago, which McCurdy said he hosts at Cedar Heights Middle School.
This student had a very miraculous event happen to him though.
He actually drowned and came back to life, according to McCurdy.
“It was great to see him and he does obviously have some long term health problems from what he went through, but he recognized me when I walked in, which was great and I recognized him right away and my goal with that program (the weightlifting program) is to kind of have an impact on people and to know that at least with him, it’s been a lasting impact,” McCurdy said.
Another interesting visitor the officers had was a little girl who’s mom said she was afraid of officers.
Her mom said she had never had any negative encounters with officers, but she had a bad dream about getting arrested some time ago and had been afraid of them ever since.
McCurdy said it didn’t take long for her to open up and face her fear.
“By the end of it she was taking pictures with us and (she) put a badge sticker on,” he said.
She even sat down with one of the officers and enjoyed a cookie while they got to know each other.
This encounter reminded McCurdy of parents in general who have good intentions of teaching their kids that cops are the good guys, but will say to their kid, “‘You better behave or that officer is going to arrest you.” This builds a negative perception, McCurdy explained.
And that’s not the message he is trying to get across with kids.
“Whenever I have a parent in a store or something like that, that say, ‘Better behave or that cop is going to arrest you,’ I always try to get down to the kids level and tell them, ‘Actually, if you’re in trouble look for someone in uniform because that’s safe person.’ And whether it’s a security guard, police officer or firefighter, usually a professional in uniform is a safe person. So I try to teach kids that’s a good person to go find,” McCurdy explained.
Events like Cookie With a Cop are ways to connect with people and their kids and educate them on the importance of safety.
McCurdy also said arresting people is such a small part of what he and his officers do. He said most of what they do is helping people when they are in crisis and trying to solve problems.
Having events like this help officers and community members interact at a more meaningful level.
“I just love being able to interact with people at their level. I have kids myself, my wife is a stay at home mom, so I think i know what some of the concerns are going to be of that group. I think just being able to answer questions and humanize me as a police officer and then the other officers I had there, both of them have kids as well,” he explained. “So I think all of us know how to talk to kids. Too often in my profession we have to almost be robotic in the way that we interact with people — it’s very professional way. But in that type of a setting (Cookies With a Cop) we can be human beings and we can talk very openly about our experiences and our perceptions of things and I think that brings a lot better understanding for both sides.”
This can help build trust between officers and the community, which will be extremely helpful if anyone is in a crisis.
McCurdy said he does not put these events on to show people how “cool” officers are. He had these events to answer community member’s questions and to make an impact on them.
As far as future events go, McCurdy said he is always looking for new ideas to connect officers with the community.
Schuh told McCurdy he would love it if he hosted more events like Cookie With a Cop at his Chick-Fil-A, so McCurdy said he for sure wants to host another Cookie event.
If people can’t make it to an event, McCurdy said people are always free to reach out to him to set something up since working with everyone’s schedule is so hard.
“All they have to do is reach out to me and I’ll either go there myself or have one of my officers on duty go because I think it’s really important to find those opportunities. We shouldn’t be just responding when there’s a crisis because then it’s really hard to build trust. If we can have that trust before it’s a crisis, then that crisis goes a lot better,” he said.