Coffee with Cops: an old-fashioned way to connect police and community

0

St. Albert RCMP launch informal meet-ups with residents at local McDonald's

Do you have a question about crime prevention in your neighbourhood, the fire pit bylaw or photo radar? Maybe you’d like to just pass the time getting to know all the places the local RCMP constables have been stationed?

St. Albert residents have a chance to ask any and all as the local detachment and the central McDonald’s host a once-monthly meet-and-greet, coffee and friendly conversation included. The event runs on the third Wednesday of every month.

On the kick-off recently, a couple of constables from the St. Albert RCMP met a few tentative residents, some unsure of what to talk to police about or even whether to approach. Long time St. Albert resident Debbie Kelly wasn’t shy, soon engaging Const. Patrick Lambert about why people don’t seem to respect police these days, what’s the crime rate in St. Albert at the moment, and if there’s anything she can do about a ticket she got for making a U-turn in the Costco parking lot?

“I’m kind of all over the place, but it’s great to have a chance to meet the police and feel free to ask these things,” said Kelly.

Lambert agreed, saying his sociable nature makes this assignment an easy one.

“It’s said that people are the police, and police are the people. It’s rewarding to talk to residents at a grassroots level, whether here or with other community efforts: in schools, on committees, et cetera,” he said. “When we’re responding to a crisis or trauma, everyone is focused on solving that one problem. This is an open dialogue in a relaxed setting. I want to be approachable to everyone.”

Rob Chiasson, owner of St. Albert’s four McDonald’s restaurants, said he came to the local RCMP with the idea after seeing the same program in Stony Plain and Spruce Grove thinking it would be a natural fit here too.

“The RCMP do so much great work with local business and the entire community already, and this is part of our values too. Citizens always have questions, so we thought we’d just start somewhere. We’ll keep getting the message out on social media, and hopefully kids will stop in on their way home from high school too,” said Chiasson.

“We love this idea. It’s a way to connect, and for residents to see us as humans outside a work setting – the face behind the uniform,” said Constable M.J. Burroughs of the St. Albert RCMP Community Policing department. “It’s part of our job to deal with residents that are displeased, but hopefully this won’t be only about taking complaints.”

The concept isn’t new. Coffee with Cops started in cities and small towns in the U.S. a few years ago, described as an old-fashioned way of doing policing. Next door, the Edmonton Police Service has previously run a similar program through its northwest division, with an eye to rebooting it in the near future.

Burroughs said in future months, constables will be prepared with ‘conversation starters’ for residents, armed with information on crime and fraud prevention, impaired driving, seat belt use and more.

“Our detachment hasn’t done anything like this before, though many members are used to being stationed in small communities where there’s always time to visit at the local coffee shop. We’re excited to see how this takes off here,” she said. “We hope to see all ages and all backgrounds of people stopping by for a chat.”

Coffee with Cops runs the third Wednesday of every month from 2 to 4 p.m. at the McDonald’s near the mall: 369 St. Albert Trail beside St. Albert Centre.

Share.

About Author

Lucy Haines

Lucy Haines has been a freelancer writer for the St. Albert Gazette since 2012. She writes features on travel, food, seniors, homes and gardens.