BY PAUL BICKLEY
It wasn’t a typical day at the library, and 2-year-old Thisbe Ellenwood stood shyly behind her mother until one police officer handed her a bottle of juice. Then she sat next to Bloomington Police Department (BPD) Deputy Chief Joe Qualters, attentive to his conversation with Mom.
Thisbe and her mother were among several community members who attended the BPD’s latest Coffee with a Cop event, held October 7 at the Monroe County Public Library (MCPL). Chief Mike Diekhoff says holding Coffee with a Cop events in places like the library lets kids, and adults, get to know police officers in non-threatening ways.
Hosted by eight BPD representatives, the October 7 event marked the first National Coffee with a Cop Day. Coffee with a Cop was created in 2011 in Hawthorne, California, where the police department was looking for ways to positively interact with the community. In Bloomington, Coffee with a Cop is part of a larger community policing effort that includes resource officers and civilian outreach staff who respond to downtown quality-of-life issues.
The point of the program, says Capt. Steve Kellams, is “to give police and the community an opportunity to interact in a casual situation and for the community to get to know us.”
Although residents can talk about anything at Coffee with a Cop gatherings, Sgt. Cody Forston says attendees typically bring up neighborhood problems such as items being stolen from cars. “Sometimes,” adds Sgt. Brandon Lopossa, “police find out that more is going on in a particular place than we thought.”
At the library, residents asked how the city will address a free-food program in Peoples Park that the BPD shut down, about illegal drug use in Bloomington compared with elsewhere, and about stickers the city has posted on downtown parking meters encouraging people to donate to social agencies rather than give money to panhandlers.
The BPD has held Coffee with a Cop events every month for a year and a half at various locations, including the Elks Lodge, Lucky’s Market, and College Mall. The department is encouraged by the outreach effort.
“We’ve seen increased attendance at these events, and increased communication,” Kellams says.
For more information about Coffee with a Cop, call the Bloomington Police Department at 812-339-4477.