Members of the Overland Park Police Department’s Community Oriented Policing Unit spent two hours Wednesday camped out at Scooter’s, a drive-through coffee store on 87th Street.
Officers Brian Payne and Theresa Bentch weren’t there waiting to catch a speeding driver or potential criminal. They were offering Scooter’s java for free at an informal meet-and-greet called Coffee with COPPS. The acronym stands for Community Policing and Problem Solving.
“We’re always looking for ways to reach out to the public and this seems like a good way to do that,” Bentch said.
“We’re a resource hub for the department,” Payne said. “We have good relationships with the area business community, non-profits and social service agencies. We serve as a hub for them in the community so we know where to go for help and how the process works.”
Officers in the COPPS unit are liaisons between the community and the rest of the department as a whole.
“This is a chance to open up a dialogue about community needs and how the residents and businesses perceive the officers and the jobs they do,” said Police Chief John Douglass.
Among those who dropped by on Wednesday afternoon was Mike Walrod, owner of the nearby Get Smarter Prep, a college counseling and test-prep company. Students and tutors come and go from Get Smarter’s three offices in the shopping center, two of which are on the back side. Walrod was concerned about their safety.
“We don’t have any issues, but I thought this is something we could do. It’s a peace-of-mind thing,” Walrod told the officers. “Do you have a handout that we could share with our students and teachers?”
Bentch offered to send Walrod a safety tips flyer; she also proposed doing a safety presentation for the company.
“We do a number of presentations,” Bentch said. “It gives us a chance to know the business community.”
This was the second Coffee with COPPS event. The first gathering took place in March at the Whole Foods store at 7401 W. 91st Street; about 15 people stopped by to chat and ask the officers questions.
Bentch suggested the coffee klatches after she learned about a similar program on the West Coast and thought it would work here.
“While we want any police officer to be approachable, the right time and right place is not always presented at the same moment,” said Police Chief John Douglass. “You may see an officer stopped in a patrol car at a traffic light, but trying to get a question answered or voice a concern is generally not feasible. The Coffee with COPPS program allows the community a chance to carry on a conversation with officers in a more social setting.”
Pastor Jessica Williams of First Baptist Church of Overland Park stopped by to grab a smoothie and chat.
“Our church is interested in knowing what’s going on in the community,” she said.
A relative newcomer to the area, Williams used the opportunity to learn a little more about Overland Park from people who know it well.
David Gritton, Scooter’s local director of marketing, was on hand for the event. Scooter’s was happy to play host for Coffee with COPPS, donating both location at 9455 W. 87th Street and product for the cause.
“We thought it was great,” Gritton said. “It’s important to us to be involved in the community and help facilitate these things. I have three young kids and I think it’s great for younger kids to meet officers in a very informal setting and reach out to them and know that the police are there to help them.”