Pop in at the Lantern Inn for a piping hot cup of coffee and an early morning chat with Goldsboro police officers.

The Goldsboro Police Department is hosting its monthly Coffee With a Cop outreach program from 8 to 9:30 a.m. today. Cpl. Andrew Nail said officers from the Community Police Services Division are available to answer questions, address concerns and to hang out over a cup of coffee or breakfast.

Coffee With a Cop, which started in 2014, is just one of the many outreach programs brought to Goldsboro by the Community Police Services Division. Nail said it is a way to provide a relaxed setting to citizens who have questions for law enforcement or who want to bring forth concerns they have for their neighborhood.

“Coffee With a Cop is our way of putting ourselves out into the community, making ourselves available to the public,” Nail said. Mainly, he said, it is a way for officers to bond with people living in Goldsboro and Wayne County and develop trust among people who might view police officers negatively.

Coffee With a Cop and other outreach programs such as the Police Activity League, Shop With a Cop, drug education programs and No Shave November were focused in on by the GPD over the last two years, Nail said. Not only are outreach programs becoming more of a national trend, but Nail said the CPSD has introduced several new programs during the past two years.

The Community Police Services Division was created out of the Crime Prevention Division in late 2016, Nail said. The division offers a variety of programs to Goldsboro citizens, such as drug education programs, drug education summer camps, educational panels for businesses, Operation Medicine Drop, the North Carolina Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics and others.

“I think that’s when it really changed to where we just dive right into the community and do outreach,” Nail said. “We’ve had a lot of new and different programs within the last year and a half that we’ve never done before, or haven’t done in a long time.”

Outreach programs such as Coffee With a Cop have their challenges, however. Nail said there are many people who still do not trust police officers, which can make fostering relationships between the community and the GPD difficult.

“It’s challenging at first, when we’re meeting somebody new or talking to someone who doesn’t know us, breaking down that barrier,” Nail said. “A lot of people don’t like the police, and they only see us as being there for something negative, that we’re there to arrest somebody, write tickets or whatever. Once they realize we’re there to help somebody or help them, do something to make their life easier, then it’s easier.”

Despite the challenges, Nail said the programs are successful in building a better relationship between police officers and the community by breaking down those stereotypes and showing people officers are there to help.

“The people we interact with are always surprised that we try to do things for the community, and I think that’s where we see the biggest impact,” Nail said. “To me, it’s most rewarding when some of the people you meet and build relationships with are wanting to do more with you.”