Students get familiarized with OPS officers during Coffee with a cop

Leah Murphy, Courier Staff

On Wednesday, Coffee with a Cop was held at the University Union Concourse from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Students, faculty and staff were invited to join local police officers for coffee and conversation.

There was no specified agenda or lectures for this event. This event was simply a chance for students, faculty and staff to ask questions, voice concerns and get to know the officers on campus and in the community. Coffee was provided by University Housing and Dining Services (UHDS).

Several police agencies had officers at this event, including officers from the Office of Public Safety (OPS), officers from the Macomb Police Department, officers from the McDonough County Sheriff’s Office and Illinois State Troopers.

Sgt. Derek Watts, an OPS officer, was at the Coffee with a Cop event. Sgt. Watts has been an officer with Western’s Office of Public Safety for 19 years.

“I’m not going to preach to you about wearing your seat belt or not speeding,” Watts said. If you have a question you can just come up and ask. There’s no fear of doing that because that’s what we’re here for: to answer questions and provide that positive, public interaction with the police.”

Coffee with a Cop was beneficial to both the police officers that attended, and the community members that participated. Police officers may have negative interactions with community members, such as giving tickets or dealing with fighting, so this event was helpful for officers to see that it is possible to have positive interactions with members of the community.

According to Watts, community members also benefited from this event by having the chance to see police officers in a different environment and gain more positive interactions with officers.

“This event lets community members know that the police officers are human beings too and we’re not just robots out doing their job,” Watts said. “They have lives and families too. It helps officers see we have good students that aren’t doing anything bad and are here not causing trouble. It gives both of them a positive view, I think it’s a plus-plus for both.”

The Coffee with a Cop event was a great way to build a stronger relationship between police officers and community members. This event was a way for community members to see that police officers do more than just give tickets and enforce laws. They help those in need, answer questions community members may have and even gave interviews for English classes.

“They are people and you can talk to them,” Watts said. “If you have a question, you can call the police department and we’ll try to answer it. Here at the University, we’ve had two or three requests this week to do an interview for someone in an English class. We’ll do things like that to have that positive side of what they want to do and what they do every day instead of just giving tickets.”