11/08/13 — Event gives officers, people chance to relax, sit and talk

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Event gives officers, people chance to relax, sit and talk

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on November 8, 2013 1:46 PM

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Phillip French of the Goldsboro Police Department speaks with Shirley Coley about issues in the community during the Coffee With a Cop event at Bojangles' Thursday morning. Citizens could meet officers from the police force and express concerns about Goldsboro.

Goldsboro Police patrol officers took a break from their official duties Thursday morning to sit and linger over a cup of coffee with residents from across the community.

Holding its first ever Coffee With a Cop event, officers from the department's Crime Prevention Unit gathered at Bojangles' on Spence Avenue at 7 a.m. to spend two hours getting to know the people they serve.

Some people had specific concerns on their mind and others just wanted to sit down and shoot the breeze.

"The key to this is we're not here to ask questions, interview or give presentations," Maj. Al King said. "We're here for your questions. Our goal is to provide a customer service in the community."

He explained that the program, which originated in California and has spread across the nation, was one that Sgt. Paige Learnard had heard about, pitched to the department's leadership and then "really ran with."

The goal, King said, is to build relationships -- to get people acquainted with their officers, specifically the ward officers they see every day.

"If someone sees something happen in the community we want them to call and tell us," Ms. Learnard said.

Two of those officers were Cpl. Ronald McDuffie and Cpl. Robbie Jones.

Customers were greeted by the two armed with smiles and coffee coupons, courtesy of Bojangles'.

On his way out the door, Goldsboro resident, James Cooke, asked "Have you had anybody just walk up and turn around when they saw you two?"

"We only had a couple people turn around and leave but that was because the line was too long," Jones said.

The officers said most of the people coming in were very receptive to the event and that they look forward to the next one.

"It gives us a chance to hear their concerns," McDuffie said. "Some people were in a rush but said they want to make the next one or tell us that they have some concerns and they'll tell us next time."

Patrol Officer Phillip French is a ward officer working the area east of Berkeley Boulevard.

"A lot of people are bringing us their concerns about littering or problems in their neighborhood," French said.

He estimates that about 20 or so people showed up for the first event but hopes it will grow.

"Some people sit around the outside edge and others come up and talk to you," French said. "The comfortable ones come right up and sit down like you, but others will float around the outside before coming over."

The department plans to hold similar events every second Thursday of the month in different areas of town.

The next event will be back at the Spence Avenue Bojangles on Dec. 12. And while Thursday's session ran from 7 to 9 a.m., the next may run earlier, Learnard said, as the bulk of the crowd came in about 7:30 a.m.

Overall, though, the officers said they were pleased with the response.

"It's going great for our first day and we have several other events set up," Cpl. Marissa Davis said. "People seemed pretty comfortable. We tried to make an environment where people feel comfortable."