By Jackie Contreras
Recently, several people walked into an event room at Embassy Suites and sat down at tables sprawled across the room to talk to members of the Arcadia Police Department.
Many grabbed the complimentary coffee and snacks, and by the first ten minutes the room rang with lively discussion. Five minutes after the Coffee with a Cop event started, more than 30 people gathered in the room, with more people walking in every few minutes; the crowd ranged in all ages.
Standing in one corner of the room was K-9 handler Travis Sargent, who was later seen taking pictures with his K-9 and attendees. This was Sargent’s second time at a Coffee with a Cop event. He said he thinks this type of event is nice because people are in a friendly mood and he gets to meet civilians in different circumstances than he otherwise would.
“People kind of open up a little more and feel free to talk,” he said.
Questions he typically gets asked are about his dog and the type of crime going on in the community.
Other topics people often ask during these events include traffic issues, crime prevention tips, and volunteering with the department, according to Administrative Sergeant Brian Ortiz.
Arcadia PD began this event in late 2013 as a different way to reach out to the public. Detectives, patrol officers, and whoever else is on duty, come out to the event to talk to civilians.
“In police culture, we’re generally talking to you at the door of your car or when something bad happen[s] at your house, and that’s not really an opportunity for people to ask questions,” said Ortiz. “So we wanted to set up a forum where people would feel comfortable to talk to officers and get to know what we do …”
Ortiz said he has seen an increase in participation over the years. The event ranges from “as few as 50 to as many as 175,” he said.
Though there haven’t been any changes to the event since its inception, the department showcases different novelties at the events; from mobile command posts to a SWAT armor vehicle. During this particular event, a 1959 police car was stationed right outside of the venue for people to look at.
The event usually takes place quarterly and is held in different venues across Arcadia, according to Ortiz.
Ortiz said these gatherings help residents understand what the goals of the department are, which are to keep Arcadia safe and to maintain the quality of life within the city.
Pearl Chen, an Arcadia resident of 20 years, attended the event for a chance to ask the police about break-ins in the area. Chen said she thinks this type of event makes it easier to approach police and likes that they want to communicate with citizens. The opportunity to ask police questions helps her better understand the law, she said.
Mayor Sho Tay was also in attendance and talking to citizens and members of the police department.
“Now they know the officer is just another person,” he said. “People think the officers are a totally different type of human, but they are just normal people.”
The next community event with the police department will be National Night Out on Aug. 7, which will be another opportunity for citizens to interact with the police.