It’s no secret that I love this area, my adopted hometown of Herkimer and the surrounding villages. I am naturally interested in any efforts to improve our quality of life. Under that heading, I made sure to attend Coffee and Conversation with a Cop last Saturday at the Baptist Church on Washington Street in Herkimer.
Full disclosure: I had another motivation to go. I thought I might have a chance to ask a policeman all my stupid questions regarding the local police for the novel I am writing.
The event ran from 9 to 11 a.m. I arrived close to nine and parked in the Green Street lot in front of the Municipal Building. A couple of people wearing name tags hung out around the door greeting people. Just inside the door a table was set up gathering contact information. They gave me a name tag, too. I got myself a cup of coffee and a donut and looked around for a cop that wasn’t busy.
People were still milling about, unsure of the event’s format. Three police officers were sitting at tables, which were set up in a U shape. I waited till one was free, sat down opposite him and pulled out my notebook.
Patrolman Patrick Murphy works for the Mohawk Police Department, but I was sure his answers would also be germane to Herkimer PD. He was very informative. We had an excellent conversation not just about my novel questions. A few other people joined in as we talked about police work in general and Patrolman Murphy’s experiences in particular. I was glad other people joined in, because I didn’t want to hog the cop.
After a while an older gentleman spoke up and asked that the policemen to sit at the head table, because he wanted to hear what people were asking them. I think a more informal format, such as we were doing, had been originally envisioned. However, after a couple tries, the older gentleman prevailed and the discussion became general.
I learned that the idea for coffee and Conversation with a Cop came from Dan Higgins, a snowbird and member of the church. He said communities were holding similar forums down south, so he approached Rev. Bell with the idea. he would like to see these meetings happen once a month.
“The church needs to be a part of the village, not just Sunday mornings,” he said.
Janice Lester Bell, the first lady of the church, spoke of the corporate and spiritual ministries of the church. The main focus of the day was not a complaint session but a chance to raise concerns and a chance for citizens to ask What can we do? Many concerns were raised. The officers answered questions, explained appropriate times to contact the police, and shared their own problems with staffing limitations.
“If you see something, say something,” is the best way a private citizen can help.
Several people had ideas on how to improve things. I found this encouraging, and I like the idea of monthly Coffee and Conversations. I’ll be watching for the next session.