Coffee with a Cop has become a UH tradition since 2015. This event series is dedicated to fostering communication and positive interactions between law enforcement and the UH community which they serve.
As many cities across the country host similar events, Sergeant Dina Padovan, crime prevention coordinator for UHPD, speaks on the importance of reinforcing the relationship between law enforcement and the university through community engagement.
UHPD has made a concerted effort to be a visible part of the UH community and can often be found interacting with students, faculty, and staff. With ongoing programming throughout the year, students and staff have become quite familiar with members of the UHPD. Affording the unique opportunity to know the person behind the badge, Sergeant Padovan attributes this to building a foundation of trust.
Trust is the value that underlies and links the components of community partnership and problem-solving.
"Trust is very important. If people do not trust the police department to report crimes then we cannot strengthen our relationships," said Sgt. Padovan. "Having a conversation over a cup of coffee is the only one aspect to help build a trusting relationship."
Coffee with a Cop events have positively influenced the relational dynamics between UHPD and the community. The events not only reify UHPD's commitment to the UH community, but also the community's commitment to fostering a meaningful relationship with UHPD.
"Community members stop and have a conversation, we connect. We have conversations about family members, pets, and our background," she said. "A lot of times, first-time attendees will ask, 'why is UHPD doing this?' They seem shocked that we are actually out handing out free coffee with a friendly conversation."
When asked about the key factors of a successful relationship between law enforcement and the community, Sergeant Padovan emphasized maintaining open lines of communication and a mutual willingness to keep the campus community safe.
The commonality is UH; there's a sense of pride and purpose that permeates this campus and is reflected in everything we do. Most importantly, it is reflected in everyone's commitment to maintaining a safe environment.
Coffee with a Cop events promote constructive partnerships by encouraging members of the UH community to become active allies in the efforts to protect the campus as co-producers of safety.
"We want to be proactive and have informal discussions about safety before an incident happens," she said. "We hear people say, 'We didn't want to call and bother you.' Call us and report. If you see something, say something. Let us sort out the details."
By strengthening relationships through a simple act of conversation and coffee, the opportunity creates a meaningful dialogue to continue to build on.
"Even though our campus is large, once you build a strong community, you realize that it's really not,” she said.
Be sure to check out the Coffee with a Cop Spring 2020 events slated for the New Year to be posted soon.