The Lenexa Police Department is working to get to know the residents it serves — one cup of coffee at a time.
Once a month in the morning, the Lenexa Police Department hosts a Coffee with Cops event, where Lenexa residents enjoy free coffee with police officers. This month, the event was scheduled during the evening to reach out to those who have been unable to attend in the morning because of schedule conflicts.
This month, Scooters, located at 101st and Walker streets, was the host for the event, attracting residents from neighborhoods nearby. Even those who visited Scooters without knowing about the event participated when seeing a few police officers and others together.
Sgt. Gary Graniewski, who has been with the department for 17 years, set up Coffee with Cops, originally at assisted-living facilities and recently expanding to public businesses.
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The coffees give the public a chance to ask questions, address concerns bring up anything they think a police officer can answer.
“We are always looking for ways to reach citizens with information that we want to share with them,” said Julie Wittman, a communications specialist for the city. “It’s a great technique for people to connect. I think it is a really approachable, comfortable setting.”
The department asks one thing in return: It wants to get to know the public. If they have any questions or concerns, the officers in attendance welcome the opportunity to discuss them.
“They’re getting to know us as people,” Graniewski said. “Not just someone in a uniform. We’re parents, coaches for kids’ teams, sports fans and taxpayers as well.
“It allows us to decompress a little bit.”
Cecil Allen, who is retired and moved to Lenexa in December from Overland Park, said the event was an opportunity to get to know more about his new community. He said he felt a “human touch” during his conversations with some of the police officers.
While learning about how the department operates, he also wanted to thank the members of the police department for their services.
“It is a lot easier to talk to people you know,” Allen said. “But when you interact with police officers, you learn they are no different than you and you can learn something.”
Many of the police officers who attend are in uniform but the occasion is meant to be informal.
Conversations at Scooters included the Royals’ looking to return to the World Series, the Chiefs’ signing Jeremy Maclin, predictions for how Season 5 of The Walking Dead will finish and much more.
For Brenda Van Hyning, this was her first time attending the event.
Van Hyning raised concerns about her neighborhood, informing Graniewski about the lack of speed limit signs.
“The officers treat you as an individual and not someone who has more authority than I do,” she said. “The officers are very friendly and not hard to talk to.”
Patrol Commander Gary Ise says a personal connection with the public is good for him and the community. If he runs into a familiar face in the future, the established rapport will help the situation go smoothly.
“If you get to know someone on that personal level, it goes a long ways in terms of people contacting me,” Ise said, who has been with the department for 25 years. “Not because I am a duty expert, but because they know me a little bit.“
The Lenexa Police Department invites Lenexa citizens to the next Coffee with Cops from 8 to 9:30 a.m. April 7 at The French Bee Bakery at 88th and Renner.