The parking along Northeast 119th Way was littered with police vehicles on Jan. 31.
So many vehicles that it caused a couple strolling near the Juanita Starbucks to question out loud “cops and coffee?”
The coffee shop was packed full of law enforcement officers from Washington State Patrol, the U.S. Marshals Service of Washington, the Federal Air Marshal Service and of course, the Kirkland Police Department (KPD), for the latest Coffee With a Cop event.
An incident last year involving Kirkland police and the Totem Lake Menchie’s is part of the reason why Jamel Warren, organizer and official with the U.S. Marshals Service, chose the location.
He described the November controversy simply: “There was an African American gentleman doing a supervised visitation who was asked to leave by law enforcement.”
This instance led to negative media headlines, he continued.
A Gallup analysis tracking the public’s confidence in police showed that while the percent of Republicans’ confidence in law enforcement had risen during the 2015-17 period, confidence numbers dropped with Democrats by eight percent when compared to the 2012-14 numbers.
Another reason for holding the event, Warren said, was “to clear the air and answer questions — to let people know we’re human and we can move forward from this.”
The Kirkland gathering is one of many Coffee With a Cop events to take place in the country. Backed by a national nonprofit of the same name, the gatherings give citizens and authorities a safe-and-equal space to come together and bond over a cup of Joe.
The events are held in a non-structured, distraction-free way (responders turn off their radios). The success of the gatherings comes from the way “it opens the door for interactions outside of the crisis situations that typically bring law enforcement officers and community members together,” the nonprofit’s website states.
There are always those who come armed with questions for officers during these events. Some ask basic questions about what each branch of law enforcement does. Others approach authorities with questions on what it takes to become an officer or how to make their communities safer. And others, still, spend the time between their coffee orders making small talk with those who protect and serve.
Sometimes the officers run into people they’ve met while on duty. A patron during a Snoqualmie coffee event recognized public information officer Rick Johnson with the Washington State Patrol from a traffic stop. He hasn’t written a ticket for a couple of years.
An email sent out to surrounding agencies made the call for varied law enforcement representatives, Warren said. Like the case was last week, sometimes a large group shows up.
“And sometimes, you have trooper Johnson and me serving coffee out the window of a Federal Way drive-thru,” Warren said.
Johnson and Warren admit: Yes, they were handing out the beverages. No, they were not allowed to craft the drinks. But why would authorities so willingly agree to strap on a green apron in a public setting?
“I don’t want people to be afraid when they call us,” Warren said. “Whether citizen of the U.S. or not, we’re here to help you.”
To the dismay of jokers making the all-too-common cops quip — the room did not reek of bacon that day. Instead it smelled of community camaraderie.
Oh, but they did serve donuts.
To attend a Coffee With a Cop event visit: www.coffeewithacop.com