2014-01-17 / Front Page

‘Coffee with a Cop’ breaks barriers

By Ben Pinette
Contributing Writer


Darcy Donahue of South Portland enjoys conversation with Chief Edward Googins of the South Portland Police Department. (Ben Pinette photo) Darcy Donahue of South Portland enjoys conversation with Chief Edward Googins of the South Portland Police Department. (Ben Pinette photo) SOUTH PORTLAND – The South Portland Police Department is getting in touch with members of the community. Last Wednesday, Jan. 8, several officers met with residents to enjoy conversation and coffee at Cia Café, located on Ocean Street.

“It’s part of a national initiative,” said Lt. Todd Bernard. “Our chief got the idea while at a conference and we wanted to give it a try.”

Bernard said he enjoys the face-to-face interaction more so than communicating online or via telephone.

“Face to face is more effective. People usually see us drive by with our windows rolled up so this is a chance for them to get to know us,” he added. Residents mostly inquired about neighborhood and crime concerns; Bernard offered them crime prevention tips in return.


Above, Nancy Perkins of Cape Elizabeth and Lt. Todd Bernard discuss their thoughts regarding the community. Bernard was one of the many police officers in attendance for the department’s first “Coffee with a Cop.” Top right, Steven McDermott of South Portland and Officer Shane Stephenson pose for a quick photo. McDermott works for the South Portland branch of Volunteers of America. (Ben Pinette photo) Above, Nancy Perkins of Cape Elizabeth and Lt. Todd Bernard discuss their thoughts regarding the community. Bernard was one of the many police officers in attendance for the department’s first “Coffee with a Cop.” Top right, Steven McDermott of South Portland and Officer Shane Stephenson pose for a quick photo. McDermott works for the South Portland branch of Volunteers of America. (Ben Pinette photo) “Coffee With a Cop” is a nationwide movement that aims to create better relationships between the police and their communities. The movement started a few years ago in California and has found success in all parts of the country.

Chief of Police Edward Googins implemented the program to show residents that their police care.

“This is the type of event that our community can benefit from,” Googins said. “It appeals to everyone. We are trying to accomplish a safe feeling so everyone can enjoy their lives without a fear of crime.”


Ollie LaChapelle of South Portland takes a break from coffee to chat with Officer John Bostwick. LaChapelle will host the same event at the community center next month. (Ben Pinette photo) Ollie LaChapelle of South Portland takes a break from coffee to chat with Officer John Bostwick. LaChapelle will host the same event at the community center next month. (Ben Pinette photo) The event also allows citizens to connect personally with their law officials.

“We wanted officers to be able to talk to people in a relatable environment. This is good for them as well,” he added.

Cia Café was buzzing during the officers’ presence, and people from all over the city stopped by to scope out the scene. Ollie LaChapelle, a lifelong resident of South Portland, was one of these people.

“I’m hosting the same event next month at the community center. I wanted to get a feel and needed to see what it’s all about,” she said.

LaChapelle said the movement is a “great idea” and believes it could work in rural areas as well.

“I want to know the police in my community. It is nice to make faces familiar,” she said.

Café owner Jeannie Dunnigan was also happy with the turnout.

“I’m so pleased they launched it here. When the police can put themselves out there, that’s the most important thing. It’s all about community,” Dunnigan said.

As the event drew on, officers began to help the café staff with orders. Officer Shane Stephenson made a point to stay behind the counter and deliver coffee and breakfast sandwiches to customers.

Chris Cook, a former South Portland police officer, saw the event advertised online and had to see it in person.

“This city is a great place to live. There is crime, but crime is everywhere. You can walk nearly anywhere here and be safe. It is good to have people there to help you.”

Cook also urged residents to see a more “human” side to the officers.

“Cops are people too. An event like this allows you to see a different side,” he said. “When you have a department like this with high standards you are going to have a great operation.”

Feedback for the event was positive.

“I’m surprised it was this well-received,” Bernard said. “As long as people want to do this it will continue to happen.”

“There hasn’t even been one doughnut joke,” Chief Googins quipped.

The South Portland Police Department hopes this will start a trend throughout the state.

“I think other departments will do this in the future. Good ideas are contagious,” Bernard added.

The next Coffee With a Cop event will take place Wednesday, Feb. 26 at South Portland Community Center. Googins and his staff welcome anyone to attend.

For more information, call the South Portland Police Department, at 799-5511 or 207-874-8575.

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