Coffee and conversation kicked off a fall Friday morning Oct. 7, as more than 100 students, faculty, and staff joined members of the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) Police Force in the atrium of Pharmacy Hall at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy for “Coffee with a Cop.”
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“It’s a way for us to build relationships with students, faculty, and staff,” said Cpl. J.R. Jones, who organized the event. “It’s a nice way for us all to get to know each other in a casual setting rather than ‘hey, there’s the police.’ We’re just someone you can sit down and talk to.”
Created in Hawthorne, Calif., in 2011, “Coffee with a Cop” aims to connect police departments to the communities they serve outside of crisis situations. More than 2,000 law enforcement agencies around the country participate in the monthly events.
In honor of National Coffee with a Cop Day, Jones, Lt. Thomas Leone, and Police Officer III Jim Brown poured coffee and served refreshments while sharing public safety tips and information about UMB safety programs.
“I say to the male students all the time, ‘Don’t let your ego get in the way of calling for our escort service,'” Brown said, referring to the van and walking escort services available to all UMB faculty, staff, students, and University of Maryland Medical Center employees.
For Melanie Slaby, a second-year pharmacy student, the morning provided her with an opportunity to express her gratitude to a police force that provided her with an enormous sense of relief a few years ago. After losing her cell phone in Pharmacy Hall, an officer found it and returned it to her at her home in Pigtown.
“I was surprised to see an officer knocking on my door,” she said. “It was such a nice thing for them to do.”
“I would come even if they didn’t have the free coffee,” added Saniya Chaudhry, a first-year pharmacy student. She chatted with Leone about the importance of being aware of her surroundings. “As a Muslim, I always want to know how to stay safe. But not just for me, this is important for everyone to know. This event was a great idea. It’s like ‘we’re people and they’re people, too.’”
At UMB, “Coffee with a Cop” will be held every first Friday of the month in buildings throughout the campus. The next gathering will take place from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m., Nov. 4, in the lobby of the School of Nursing.
“A lot of students were very thankful that we’re here, not just here this morning with coffee, but that we are here on campus, providing public safety and keeping students safe,” Jones said. “This is what building relationships is all about.”