Cpl. Jennifer Bickel stood at the door of the York Street McDonald’s with other Aiken Public Safety officers and greeted people as they came in for breakfast Thursday morning.
“We want them to realize we want to hear what they have to say,” Bickel said. “It really is important to us.”
It was the first Coffee with a Cop that public safety has put on, but the department hopes it will grow into a monthly event.
Coffee with a Cop is a national program that brings together the community and law enforcement officers for informal discussion. It has law enforcement participants in 36 states and 175 cities, according to its Web site.
Bickel said she saw a story about the program in a law enforcement magazine and knew it was something Aiken needed.
Theresa Redd showed up Thursday after seeing the announcement in the newspaper. Redd was rear-ended by a hit-and-run driver in February. After the wreck, she said, she was unsure of what to do and left the crash scene. Later, she questioned her actions and sought police advice but was unable to get it.
“I tried to call, but everyone is too busy,” Redd said. “You don’t get call-backs. This was a lot easier.”
Redd sipped coffee with two Aiken Public Safety officers Thursday and quickly got the advice she had been seeking for months.
Pam Powers, the owner of three McDonald’s restaurants in Aiken, slipped through the crowd refilling coffee cups. She said she noticed quite a few people who were not morning regulars who probably were there just for the event.
“It’s a great opportunity for people who only see them (officers) when they’re getting a ticket,” Powers said. “Now they get to see them as people.”
As part of the community watch group in his Kalmia Hill neighborhood, Roger Brock said he wanted to learn more about the officers and get ideas on keeping neighborhood crime low. After speaking with several members of public safety, he called the program “great” and said it could break down barriers between law enforcement and the public.
“When the chief sits down and starts talking to you, it’s pretty neat,” Brock said.
Chief Charles Barranco said he was pleased with the first Coffee with a Cop. It was encouraging for him to hear over the police scanner that people continued to call in to dispatch to see how long the officers were going to be at the restaurant.
“It really ties into our safe community approach,” Barranco said. “We need the community. We can’t do it on our own.”
Coffee with a Cop will return Aug. 15 at McDonald’s on Pine Log Road.