Coffee with a Cop – an opportunity for the community to engage New York’s Finest

The NYPD Community Affairs Bureau hosted a “Coffee with a Cop” event at Starbucks in Jamaica.
Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

On Wednesday, the Starbucks on Sutphin Boulevard in Jamaica was abuzz as community members mingled with NYPD officers at a “Coffee with a Cop” event to share their concerns and connect with New York’s Finest over a complimentary cup of java and food prepared and donated by Starbucks team members. 

Starbucks team members prepared the food for the “Coffee with a Cop” event. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

“Coffee with a Cop” has been around since 2011, when cops in Hawthorne, California, launched the event to connect with the community and foster direct communication in a casual setting. Within five years, the barrier-breaking program grew into a national movement, and, in 2016, the first Wednesday in October was declared National Coffee with a Cop Day. However, law enforcement agencies around the country host the event, where citizens and cops can have honest conversations throughout the year. 

Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Assistant Chief Kevin Williams, commanding officer of NYPD Patrol Borough Queens South, who joined the soiree alongside community affairs officers from the 103rd, 105th and 113th Precincts, told QNS that the event was a great way to connect with the community. 

Officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection joined the social gathering between the NYPD and the community. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

“It’s a way for us as a police department to interact with members of the community, especially here in southeast Queens,” Williams said. 

Three youngsters dressed appropriately for the event. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Det. Tanya Duhaney of the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau of Patrol Borough Queens South, who organized the event alongside her colleagues Sgt. Faison, Det. Flemens and P.O. Lawrence told QNS that because the events were so engaging, the NYPD hosted the brewing event regularly throughout the year in different parts of the city. 

NYPD Capt. Echavarria (left) and Det. Flemens (center) take care of their young fans’ well-being. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

“The cops really, really enjoy it because it’s just open dialogue. And it’s just easy conversation, even if it is difficult. We have the answers for the people,” Duhaney said. She shared that they helped one participant answer her question about how the NYPD handles cases of missing special needs people. 

Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

“Nobody knew the 24-hour rule [for] a missing person that has special needs. There is no 24 Hour Rule,” Duhaney explained. “If you’re special needs and you’re missing, that’s a special category. We have to look for you.”

Det. Tanya Duhaney (second from the right) was one of the “Coffee with a Cop” organizers. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Duhaney expressed that she loves the event. 

Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

“It is the best engagement, and it’s so easy. It’s just easy conversation,” Duhaney declared.

Det. Duhaney, Det. Flemens, and Capt. Echavarria prepared some Starbucks sips with the help of barista Oleato (middle right). Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Some participants had learned about “Coffee with a Cop” through social media or fliers. Others, like Leigh Gerstein from Bayside, stumbled across the event by accident. He was walking up the block when he noticed several cops inside Starbucks. Gerstein associated “Coffee with a Cop” with the annual national event in October. He thought it was excellent that the NYPD hosted the event throughout the year to build bridges with the community. 

Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

“I mean, unfortunately, in New York, the community doesn’t trust cops. I don’t know why. [Cops] are there to serve the public,” Gerstein said. “So if it helps build bridges, why not?”

Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Gerstein hoped that the cooperation between the communities and the NYPD would improve. 

Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

“Let’s face it, everybody wants safe neighborhoods,” Gerstein declared. “You can’t go shopping if the neighborhood isn’t safe. You can’t come to Starbucks if the neighborhood isn’t safe. So, hopefully, it’s good for everybody all the way around.” 

NYPD Deputy Inspector McCall listens to the concerns of residents. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Jamaica residents Sugar B. Wright and Wardie James attended the event to support the community and the cops. 

NYPD Assistant Chief Kevin Williams (middle) with Jamaica residents Sugar B. Wright and Wardie James. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Wright called the event a “beautiful thing” and an opportunity for New Yorkers to meet cops and find out how “friendly [cops] really are in real life.”

Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

“[Coffee with a Cop] is to get to know each other because it’s not all about crime,” Wright, who is retired from the NYPD, said. “It’s about the community, and with me being part of the community, I like to watch how [cops] deal with the community and how the community reacts. This is real time.” 

Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

James felt there should be more “Coffee with a Cop” get-togethers. 

“We really get to know each other instead of fighting, you know,” James said.

Debra Adams expressed that the community needed events like “Coffee with a Cop” to rebuild trust and unite the community. 

“I’m so proud of all the cops because they put their lives on the line for us, especially the times we live in,” Adams said. So I really appreciate this.” 

Rev. Dr. Brenda Archer has relatives who are active and retired NYPD officers. 

“It’s good to come together as a community to be able [for] fellowship and enjoy coffee and chat -some will call it chat n’ chew with our protectors in the community, our law enforcement, NYPD, so we pray for their safety as well as our own,” Archer said. 

Latoya Legrand, founder of ProjectsToProjects, said that contrary to how cops and the community were often portrayed in the media, the event showed that there were caring people on both sides.

“I see us communicating more together and not taking on the negative connotation that NYPD is not for the community. The community is for the NYPD, and the NYPD is for us,” Legrand declared.