At least a dozen Buffalo police officers descended on a downtown Buffalo Starbucks Tuesday not in response to a 911 call, but for the holiday edition of “Coffee with a Cop.”
The national program has a straightforward goal: to bring police officers and the communities they work in together in a casual setting. Everyone is invited to come enjoy a cup of coffee and get to know local cops.
“It gives [police] a chance to sit down and hear from the people one-on-one, and whatever the problem may be in their community, they can express it to their chief that runs that community. That’s why I have all my chiefs here,” said Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood.
“So, if it’s something that’s going on [in] North Buffalo, South Buffalo or East Side, I have a chief that can answer their questions.”
Debra Caudle pushed a small red shopping cart into the Starbucks on Delaware and Chippewa and took a seat alone as Tuesday’s event was getting started. She didn’t stay solo long, as Deputy Police Commissioner Barbara Lark soon came to sit down next to her.
“I just wanted to see if you had anything that you would like to talk to us about,” Lark said.
Caudle, who lives in the medical corridor, told Lark police have helped encourage and advise her grandson.
“The cops, they’ve been involved with my grandbaby because he was very traumatized with what he went through with his mother, and they reached out to him,” Lark said. “They’ve been a very big help.”
Lark added that she feels safe in her neighborhood because of a regular police presence there, and she appreciated officers’ efforts to rid Michigan Avenue of drugs.
“I was about to move but I seen that they stepped in and cleared all of that out, and that was good.”
At least a dozen cops gathered with Mayor Byron Brown and Commissioner Lockwood to hear from residents like Caudle. Some of the officers, including Lark, even donned a green Starbucks apron and played barista behind the coffee bar.
“We’re not only having coffee with a cop, but we’re also serving it,” Lockwood said.
While there seemed to be more police and City Hall staffers present than community members, those who did attend said it was helpful.
Evan Jackson is a placement and career coordinator for PathStone, a new reentry program for young adults.
“We help individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 that live in the city of Buffalo that might have had a little run in with the law,” Jackson said. Those clients don’t always have the best relationship with police, “because [of] some things they went through or some things they’ve heard on TV, and then stories they’ve heard from parents and grandparents [from] when they were younger. So, we’re trying to bridge that gap, I guess you could say. We’re actually trying to work with police.”
To that end, Jackson said relationship-building events like “Coffee with a Cop” are helpful for networking. Whether they’re as helpful for Buffalo officers’ latte art remains to be seen.