I was delighted to attend the second Coffee and Conversation with a Cop at the Baptist Church on Washington Street in Herkimer last Saturday morning (perhaps you read my blog post about the first one). I feel so pleased that this is going to be a monthly event and have great hopes as I do for any project meant to improve my beloved adopted hometown.
The event ran from 9 to 11 a.m. I arrived shortly after nine, signed in and put my name on a name tag. Jamie Lester Bell, the First Lady of the church, remembered me from last time. She was on her way out, having double booked herself, but she took time to greet me. She also asked me to leave information on how to get to my blog. I said I would post a link on the church’s Facebook page (note to self: remember to do that).
No cops were present as I walked in. They were out on a call. Chairs were arranged around two separate tables rather than the U formation they had been in last time. People were sitting around one table having a discussion. I got some coffee and a cookie and chatted with some people I remembered from last time.
When I saw a uniform come in the door I called, “There’s a cop!”
It was Officer Steve Elwood, who I had met at the Herkimer Police Department when I registered for the DARE 5K. He looked at the plate of donuts and said, “Is this a joke?”
I don’t know why it’s such a cliche of cops and donuts. A lot of people like donuts. I look like I eat a few too many myself. But I digress.
Officer Elwood asked me how I did on the run. We chatted a bit about that, then sat down at a table and others joined the conversation. Another officer showed up, whose name I did not get, so we had a cop at each table with two separate conversations going on. The atmosphere was very informal, which I gather is the intention.
My table chatted about all kinds of things. My novel came up, because I had been asking Officer Elwood questions for it the day I registered for the DARE run. I’d better make sure I finish that novel, I’ve mentioned it to so many people.
We asked a lot of questions about police work in general and the situation in Herkimer in particular. I really enjoyed how it felt more like a conversation with regular people than a question and answer session. As we talked about problems in our community it became a more serious discussion about economics and societal ills. We discussed how bringing more businesses in, particularly on Main Street, would help everything.
My big takeaway, both this time and last month, was what we as individuals can do. “If you see something, say something.” For example, there have been burglaries recently where the thieves just took stuff out of a house and drove away with it in broad daylight. Did the neighbors even notice? If so, why didn’t they make a phone call?
I said that it might be a problem on my street, because there are several rental properties. People are often moving in and out. Even as I said it, I realized my solution is actually what I try to do. When I’m out walking my dog, I speak to people. I can’t say I get to know all my neighbors, but I have a better shot at recognizing somebody who doesn’t belong.
Obviously any community needs more than just sitting around talking, drinking coffee and eating donuts (I ate a donut; I don’t think any of the cops did). But I like to think this is a step in the right direction. I hope that some of us try to do something to implement some of the ideas that were expressed. And I hope to see even more people at next month’s Conversation. I plan to be there.