Coffee with a Cop Unites Community

Cafés serve as common ground for conversations between law enforcement and neighborhood customers.

Marketing can take a variety of forms. Many small businesses use a mixture of paid advertising, social media, coupons, and other incentives, but there are other methods that not only promote your café, but also generate good will.

One such method is hosting a “Coffee with a Cop” event. These gatherings help improve trust and build relationships—one cup of coffee at a time.

The idea began in 2011, when members of the police department in Hawthorne, California, brainstormed ways to interact more positively with the citizens they served. They decided meeting local residents over a cup of coffee would help break through barriers that had built up over the years.

To date, Coffee with a Cop events have been held in all 50 states at cafés large and small. Independent coffeehouses are ideal meeting places, providing an intimate, casual setting with a local connection to the community.

Getting Involved

Emily Morningstar, owner of Morningstar Coffeehouse in Glendale, Oregon, says she was approached about holding one of these events by her town’s city clerk.

“We are in a tiny rural town, of about 900 people, without a great police presence,” Morningstar says. “The clerk believed it would help our business, but more importantly, it would give our citizens a way to feel more familiar and comfortable with our local sheriff.”

Morningstar agreed to hold the event. She was thrilled to see new faces in attendance, and even more encouraged when they made repeat visits to her coffeehouse.

Matthew Cooper, manager of Govan’s Coffee House in Gallatin, Tennessee, was also contacted by local officials. He experienced the same success as Morningstar and plans to have a Coffee with a Cop event every quarter from now on.

“Everyone who attended the event purchased something,” Cooper says. “It was also neat to see that some of the officers bought coffee for the guests.”

Although Govan and Morningstar were asked to host these events, café owners can take the initiative and offer their business as a venue.

“Call your police chief and tell them about Coffee with a Cop in case they don’t know about it,” Cooper says. “Hold these events and vary the times to reach as many potential customers as you can.”

Building Rapport

At Patrick Dugan’s Coffee House in Garden City, Kansas, manager Cassandra Gonzales says anytime someone new comes through the door, there’s an opportunity to make that person a repeat and loyal customer.

Gonzales says there is a distinct advantage in hosting Coffee with a Cop events. “Inviting the public to communicate with our local law enforcement in a neutral location gave the community an opportunity to see that our police officers hold the same roles as the rest of us. They are our neighbors, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters.”

Don’t be discouraged if attendance is soft at first, says Casey Cuthill, manager of Colectivo Coffee’s Bay View café and bakery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “If you hold Coffee with a Cop at regular intervals, like monthly, then you can get more of a following and a wider variety of people,” Cuthill says.

Coffee with a Cop events have gone so well for LostCoffee in Castle Rock, Colorado, that they’ve hosted ten of them so far. Owner Scott Gaerte says it shows his community they’re open to all points of view and intent on creating an environment of mutual confidence and understanding.

According to one survey, 70 percent of Coffee with a Cop attendees reported a strong improvement in their feelings toward police after the events—even when they already had positive views of police.

The key to Coffee with a Cop’s success is that it opens the door for interactions outside of the crisis situations that typically bring law enforcement officers and community members together.

For more information, log on to coffeewithacop.com.