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Last Cup Till Fall

I forgot to write about Coffee with a Cop!  I’ve written about the program before. It takes place on the first Saturday of the month.  A police officer or officers who are on duty but not busy meet with any interested community members. We have coffee and treats, and we talk.  The meetings take place at various locations, such as churches or the library.  On Saturday, June 6, we met at Trinity Lutheran Church, 443 Henry St., Herkimer, with Officer Tiffany Hill and Herkimer Police Chief Michael Jory.

The idea of the meetings is to foster a better relationship between the police and the community. Discussions often cover a variety of topics.  Officer Hill talked about Community Policing, getting to know the people she protects.  Recently she had attended a parade and danced with kids in Meyers Park.  She was at a local school one lunch time and ended up signing autographs (nobody at the meeting was bold enough to ask for one).

She also told us about a foot pursuit where she ran across State Street and caught the guy.  Apparently somebody had leaned out of their apartment window to record it and posted the video on YouTube.  Some of those present had seen it. Oh, I missed a bet.  I should have found it and posted a link.  It was an exciting story.

“My job is so boring,” I grumbled.  Please note:  I don’t really mind; I can live with a little boredom.

We talked a bit about Main Street’s bad reputation, which I feel is not entirely deserved.  As with many such things, there is some truth and some exaggeration involved.  I said I would stubbornly continue to walk and run on Main Street when I felt like it.  Nobody seemed to think this was a bad idea.

I love my adopted hometown of Herkimer, but I know there is room for improvement. I like to think that Coffee with a Cop is a step in the right direction.  The program is taking a break for the summer but will restart in the fall.  I’ll be watching for fliers and scanning the newspapers to see when and where, as I hope others will be, too.



Me and the Police

I saw on Facebook (an unending source of information) that Thank the Police Blue Ribbon Day happens from 9:01 p.m. Sept. 29 to 8:59 p.m. Sept. 30.  What better time, I thought, to make my post about Coffee and Conversation with a Cop (also known as Cup with a Cop).  I attended the latest session of the program last Saturday, Sept. 26, and enjoyed it very much.

The program runs the last Saturday of the month from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at First Baptist Church in Herkimer.  One or two police officers attend (as allowed by their duties).  Anybody in the community is welcome to come and chat.  I’ve asked questions about police procedure for that novel I keep trying to write.  We talk about the state of crime in the area, local police work, and many other related topics.

I confess that when I attend these sessions I am torn between an uplifting feeling of civic virtue and a sheepish acknowledgement that I am also looking forward to the refreshments.  Then again, as a community theatre colleague once observed as we contemplated with satisfaction a large crowd for dessert theatre, “If you feed them, they will come.”

While I enjoyed several cookies, I also contributed to a lively and wide-ranging discussion.  What I really liked about it was that people’s attitudes were geared to, “What can we do to make things better?”  The underlying thought seemed to be that we actually can make it better.  I found that refreshing and encouraging.

Sometimes at these sessions, when we get to talking about the state of the world, we fall into a bit of,  “Look at THOSE people!  They don’t show any respect!”  From there, it is a short step to, “It wasn’t like that when WE were young!”  Yes, I have done it myself, but I question the validity of the assertion.  One time an older guy (older than me at any rate) was bemoaning the younger generation, and I said to him, “You realize your grandfather said the same thing about you.”  Of course I was just guessing, but I bet I guessed right.

Officer Crippen, our cop for the day, did talk about respect, but he talked a lot about how much better things go when he shows respect to others.  Obviously, sometimes you have to tackle the bad guy, but often when you come into a situation, what first meets the eye does not tell the whole story.  He finds if he can ask, “What’s going on here?” and get an answer, he often gets a better result.  He said when possible, he prefers verbal de-escalation.

Another topic that came up was the ever-increasing problem of heroin addiction.  We talked about societal and economic factors in the situation, as well as the more sophisticated techniques of the drug dealers and the police department’s troubles in combating them.  Long-range solutions, of course, are not easy to come by, but we discussed those, too.

As usual, the idea of all citizens being the eyes and ears of the police came up.  “If you see something, say something” is the rule the police would like us to follow.  This is not said with a “Squeal on your neighbor” kind of vibe but rather with the intent to help your neighborhood and make our community better.  An example of this was a question I brought up.  It seems a number of people in my neighborhood enjoy the night life, sometimes returning loudly at a late hour.  If I think I hear a fight, the police would rather I call them and be wrong than not call them and be right.  After all, the cops may be able to stop a fight before somebody gets hurt.

I felt it was a really good session and was glad I was able to attend.  Cup with a Cop has been going on for a year now.  One of the last things we talked about was how to expand the program, bring more people into the discussion, and let it spread to other communities.  One possibility is to ask other churches to host sessions. Another suggestion was to hold a Conversation at the library.

“Yes, the library,” I said.  “Then afterwards, people can stay and listen to Guitar Group!  I love that Guitar Group.”  It would make a wonderful blog post.


I Return to the Cops

For the past few months for one reason or another I have missed Coffee and Conversation with a Cop so I was determined to go last Saturday, May 30.


The program runs from 9 to 11 a.m. on the last Saturday of the month at the First Baptist Church of  Herkimer on the corner of Green and Washington streets in Herkimer, NY.  The aim is to foster a better relationship between citizens and police, thus improving the quality of life in our village.  I am all about improving my beloved Herkimer.  Also, the session is a golden opportunity for me to ask questions about police work relating to the novel I am still trying to write.


Another bonus, for me at least, is the refreshments.  I enjoyed a nice cup of coffee and some homemade scones and cookies that were to die for.  I should have asked for the recipes.  But I digress.


Two officers sat at the tables when I arrived shortly after nine.  One was in a lively discussion with several participants, but the other looked free, so I cornered him with my novel inquiries.  Oh well, I guess “cornered” is an exaggeration.  I sat down near him with my coffee and scone, and opened my notebook.


He was gracious and informative.  I took care not to let my novel dominate the conversation but tried to think of questions that would be of interest to others.  Others sitting at our table also had questions.


One question that came up was what to look for if one suspected the neighbors of nefarious activities (nobody actually said “nefarious.”  I just like that word).   Batteries?  Chemicals?  It is not always easy to know if something is suspicious, because things can have multiple explanations.  For example, comings and goings at odd hours may indicate shift work.  A good solution is to get to know your neighbors, which of course is not always easy these days.


This idea of Neighborhood Watches was brought up. The officers emphasized that a Watch was just that.  If we observe something wrong, we should call the police and not try to take action ourselves.


“That’s how you become a headline,” I said.


The officers had brought fliers keeping your home secure.  I especially liked the one titled “Beware of the Bogus Caller,” which featured a cartoon of a man with an evil grin on the front.  The flier had good advice, but I thought it was a funny picture.


I only stayed and chatted for about an hour, because I had many things to do and a headache to contend with (just to throw in a line about my petty personal problems), but I was glad I attended.  I feel it makes me look at my village as a whole and gives me a different perspective from my usual Mohawk Valley adventures.


Another Conversation with a Cop

I think the local cops are cool. I am reminded of this once a month now when I attend Coffee and Conversation with a Cop at the First Baptist Church in Herkimer, NY. I had some good conversation there last Saturday, Sept. 27.

The event runs from 9 to 11 a.m. the last Saturday of the month at the church on the corner of Green and Washington streets. I got there just after nine. Rev. Tenolian Bell, the church’s pastor, greeted me. I got myself a name tag, a cup of coffee and a scone. I sat down and opened my little notebook.

Two officers I had not met before were there. I’ve met different cops each session. They have all been pleasant, friendly and informative. This time I met Officers J. Reska and K.R. Allen. Rev. Bell told us these two had appeared on the original poster advertising the first Coffee and Conversation with a Cop. I thought that was kind of cool.

Traffic was a big topic this time. At one point, a certain right turn only corner came up. Someone wasn’t sure which corner it was. Officer Reska tried to elucidate.

“If I had a piece of paper…”

I immediately pushed my notebook and pen over to him so he could draw a little map of the corner in question. We talked about inconsiderate people not obeying the signs. If the police aren’t right there, the person is probably going to get away with it. Sometimes the police are close by but are en route to a more urgent call.

A call came in during our conversation, and both officers had to leave for a short time. I took the opportunity to ask Rev. Bell about something he had mentioned earlier, that he had been an investigator for a D.A. We talked about his experiences and path to the ministry, which I found very interesting.

When the cops returned, the recent rash of car break-ins came up. Officer Reska said in many cases the car owners had not locked their doors. I always lock my doors, but felt it would sound smug to say so.

We also talked a little about the officers’ backgrounds and experiences, and police work in general. I feel I am getting a real picture of the Herkimer Police Department. I took a flier for next month’s session to hang up at my work. I hope more people start attending Coffee and Conversation with a Cop. I look forward to more conversations myself.

Second Cup with a Cop

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.