Only two people arrived at BorderLands Cafe Wednesday night in the Mission to mingle with police at Coffee with a Cop, a program intended to foster conversations between officers and residents in their district.
The meeting, which began at 6:30 p.m., was a surprise to many of the cafe’s customers. Patrons – who came only for a coffee or tea – tentatively walked by the seven uniformed officers, placed their order and retreated to one of the many secluded tables in the back. The officers, grouped around four tables, chatted quietly with the two participants for the duration.
Coffee with a Cop was made public via twitter, a listing on MissionLocal, a Borderlands newsletter and a sign on the cafe’s door. Few, however, showed up.
“Police are frustrated,” said Sgt. Flint Paul, a 22-year veteran. “It would be nice if communities saw us as real people.”
Coffee with a Cop was introduced in 2011 in Hawthorne, California to improve community relations. It is meant to encourage conversation removed from the unpleasant circumstances that often accompany police interactions.
“Most people don’t know what the work is like,” said Alan Beatts, owner of Borderlands Cafe at 870 Valencia St. “The general public is always interacting with police while they’re working. It doesn’t really give them an opportunity to relate on a person-to-person level. Cops are just the same as anybody else.”
Community policing is often regarded as the best approach to working with a neighborhood, but according to The Bureau of Justice Assistance, it doesn’t happen overnight. The process of building trust takes time and requires both parties to contribute, the bureau writes.
Borderlands Cafe, which held its first Coffee with a Cop about a month ago, had a bigger turnout the first time around. Seven residents arrived at 9 a.m. to speak with about seven officers.
Wednesday’s meeting, which was pushed to 6:30 p.m. in the hope of catching people after work, was far less successful.
“No one is helping them (police) out,” said Scott Peradotto, 38, who wants to become a police officer.
Sgt. Paul wants to see others there. “I would like to see more marginalized groups that report they don’t have positive contact with the police,” he said.
Mission Local will post the date of the next Coffee With A Cop when it becomes available.