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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.