Sometimes it only takes a good cup of coffee to make your day a little bit better; it’s also a chance to commune with friends, family and co-workers over ideas, the day ahead and in general, just an opportunity to connect with each other.
A new initiative from the Marshalltown Police Department hopes a hot cup of joe will help to form new and stronger ties within the community.
“Coffee with a Cop,” set for 8-11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8 at Hy-Vee, 802 S. Center St., will be the time where community members can share ideas, ask questions and meet MPD officers in a relaxed, casual setting.
“It’s important for us to do everything we can to engage the community,” said MPD Chief Mike Tupper. “It’s a good opportunity for people to get to know the police department.”
Indeed, the chance to interact with the men and women in blue comes at a critical time in law enforcement.
Thanks to skewed national media reports, social media and some high-profile incidents involving law enforcement, police officers have taken some hits lately.
While some of the criticism may be justified in certain cases, the VAST MAJORITY of officers are honorable professionals doing their job. They are public servants doing the best they can in protecting you, your family, neighbors and friends.
MPD Officer A.J. Accola, who is coordinating the “Coffee with a Cop” program said this opportunity is a chance for the public to meet police officers on a more personal, human level.
“This is the exact type of program I really like,” he told me. “There’s no agenda to it; it’s being able to just talk to the public. We want to show the public we’re community members, too.
“Most of the time when we’re dealing with the public, it’s not always under the best of circumstances. (This event) provides a human side to the badge.”
Both Tupper and Accola agree the negative image that has tarnished some other police departments has unfairly impacted theirs. But community outreach efforts like “Coffee with a Cop” is a chance to share with folks the positives of the work they do.
“We need to do everything we can to show people that we have a phenomenal police department – that we truly do care about the people we’re serving,” Accola said.
Tupper agreed. He said it’s important for the public to know the MPD officers, detectives and its civilian staff on a first-name basis; because when a crisis or an emergency arises, those connections are critical in helping both the police and the citizens they serve.
The plan for the first coffee on Dec. 8 is for at least 4-5 officers, some from each shift, to stop by and share in a cup of coffee with anyone who wants to visit with them, Accola said.
I’ve been fortunate to meet a number of law enforcement officers in Marshalltown and Marshall County. Obviously through our work here at the Times-Republican, it is sometimes under difficult circumstances that we interact with these officers and sheriff’s deputies. The news we report is sometimes upsetting, harrowing and often, heartbreaking – something law enforcement folks deal with on an almost daily basis.
But if you get to know some of these men and women in uniform, you’ll discover they have the same wants and desires as all of us. They are talented, smart and some of the most interesting people I have met.
For example at the MPD, Tupper cannot get enough of his beloved Iowa Hawkeyes and Green Bay Packers; Lt. Ryan Goecke is a big Nebraska Cornhusker fan and is a true aficionado of good cigars; Capt. Mike Hanken is a Benton County native and a lover of the finest whiskey; Officer Casee Veren is passionate about CrossFit training; and Det. Randy Kessler is an Air Force veteran who rides his Harley-Davidson any chance he can.
Their colleagues over at the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office are just as engaging – Sheriff Ted Kamatchus is a heavy duty Minnesota Vikings fan; Deputy Steve Sodders dabbles in winemaking and is a woodworking hobbyist; Veren’s husband, Sgt. Ben Veren is an excellent chef; Jail Supervisor Pat White is an avid camper and runner; and Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Hoffman speaks a little German, is a dedicated family man and loves doing yard work for friends.
Those qualities and interests are what helps to define these folks – not the speeding tickets, the arrests or the inhumanity they too often have to witness while on duty.
So on Dec. 8, this coffee event, sponsored by the MPD, is a small effort to reach out to all of us who care about Marshalltown and to show the public that police officers are just like you and me.
“The goal is to get to know us as your neighbor, not as the guy in a squad car,” said Accola.
And if you ask me, that’s certainly worth a good cup of coffee.
Contact Jeff Hutton at 641-753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org