Conversation over coffee

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By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle
Grove City Police Officer Matt Mullins and resident Vidal Cruz sit and chat at a local restaurant during the Coffee with a Cop event on March 29. Coffee with a Cop is a nationwide initiative that brings law enforcement officers and the community together to discuss issues in an informal setting.

Like most students, Caleb Coffey could not wait for spring break. Though his family did not have any out-of-state adventures planned for this year, there was one special day during his vacation that he was eagerly awaiting.

It was Thursday, March 29 when the 5-year-old, his baby sister and their mother Jessica packed into the family vehicle for a short journey across town. Upon arriving at their destination, a local fast food restaurant, his eyes rapidly took in the scene.

There, he saw multiple members of the Grove City Division of Police milling about. His face lit up. Hardly waiting for his mother to navigate the room with baby carrier in tow, he looked at the officer’s badges, smiled and moved from person to person, seeking out that special someone.

Having finally caught up with her excited child, Jessica took Caleb’s hand and brought him to the person he desperately wanted to see. Finally, standing before him, was Chief Jeffrey Pearson.

“He’s been looking forward to meeting you,” said Jessica Coffey as she looked at her son, who had completely clammed up by this point.

With the encouragement of Pearson, Caleb started to open up and expressed how happy he was to be able to experience this moment that he had been looking forward to throughout his spring break.

“This is so cool,” he said.

Caleb, his mother explained, is a big fan of law enforcement officers and always enjoys going to public events where they will be. When she saw that Grove City Police Department would be having a Coffee with a Cop event on one of the days during spring break, she asked him if this was something he would like to go to. Naturally, Caleb jumped at the chance. It was made all the more anticipatory when he learned that the police chief was scheduled to attend.

While Caleb wanted to come out to the event to meet his heroes, Jessica wanted to come for a different reason.

“I wanted advice from professionals on how to speak with him about outside dangers,” she said.

Throughout the duration of the Coffey family’s stay at the event, the chief and other officers doled out tips on how to stay safe and lessen the chance of danger or harm coming to her children, as well as others.

This event, explained Pearson, is multifaceted.

“Not only does it give people the ability to speak with us about personal issues in an informal setting, but it also provides an opportunity to bring kids out to meet us and help us break down barriers or any fears they may have,” he said.

According to Pearson, the department has been participating in Coffee with a Cop, a nationwide initiative that started in 2011, since January of 2017.

It is hosted at different local eateries throughout the city three or four times a year and has become a popular event for both the community and the law enforcement officers.

Tom Durflinger, the crime prevention coordinator for the department, said he enjoys Coffee with a Cop because it offers the chance for positive interactions.

“Most of the contact we have with the community is negative because of the situation,” he said. “We meet some people at the worst moments of their lives, but with something like this we can have that positive interaction that we all need sometimes.”

Approximately 30 residents came out to the March 29 Coffee with a Cop hosted at Chick-fil-A and though not all were as excited as Caleb Coffey to meet the officers – after all, some did come to discuss personal matters and get advice on how to deal with them – they did express appreciation for the police and the event.

“I just wanted to come out and tell them how much I appreciate their hard work and all that they do for us,” said Cathy Thornberry.

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