OAKHURST — The Cool Bean Cafe was buzzing this morning as folks dropped in to chat or have coffee while getting to know their local CHP officers.
Coffee With A Cop is a program near and dear to the heart of Oakhurst Area CHP Commander Lt. Jason Daughrity. The purposed is to bring together police officers and the community members they serve–over coffee–to discuss issues and learn more about each other.
This morning from 7 to 9:30 a.m., Lt. Daughrity and Public Information Officer Kaci Lutz, took time out of their very busy day to spend time with anyone wanting to sit and chat about anything that was on their minds.
“If we don’t talk about law enforcement, that’s not important,” says Daughrity. “Just having people see who we are, learning more about us as individuals, breaking down some barriers, eliminating some stereotypes, and engaging with the community — that’s the goal. We’ve answered a few questions this morning, but most people just want to talk.”
The majority of contacts law enforcement has with the public happen during emergencies or emotional situations. Those situations are not always the most effective times for relationship-building with citizens, and some community members may feel officers are unapproachable out on the roadways. Coffee with a Cop breaks down barriers and allows for a relaxed, one-on-one interaction.
Daughrity says he is in a different phase of his law enforcement career now as Commander, and his focus is on community outreach.
“We want to get the kids used to knowing that we are who they go to when they need help,” says Daughrity, as he interacted with one-and-a-half-year-old Sawyer — whose mom says he gets scared by the sound of sirens — and his nearly-three-year-old sister Audrey. “What happened here today was exactly what we hoped would happen. People stopping by to say hello and making that connection.”
A group of women who work out at the gym together in the morning and regularly stop by the Cool Bean afterwards, spent some time chatting with Officer Kaci Lutz this morning. They were more than impressed with her engaging manner and accessibility, not to mention her background as an army veteran.
Lt. Daughrity plans to make Coffee With A Cop part of an ongoing effort to engage with the community and build relationships between law enforcement and citizens, holding events on different days and times, and at various venues around the mountain area.
The program aims to advance the practice of community policing through improving relationships between police officers and community members, one cup of coffee at a time.
Cool Bean owner Casey Lucas says business was up about 30 percent this morning, so it was definitely a good outcome all around.
We will let everyone know when and where the next Coffee With A Cop takes place, and encourage anyone who has the time to set a spell and chat with the folks who respond when you need help.
Please contact CHP Public Information Officer Kaci Lutz with questions: 559-658-6590.