Police officers are often seen as enforcers of the law, carrying the responsibility of ensuring that our community is safe. In their blue and black uniforms, it can seem intimidating to connect with them on a personal level.
However, in an innovative move, first in Australia, the Fairfield Police have taken the initiative to actively engage with the community to develop a positive relationship and to discuss local issues and concerns facing them.
The Coffee with a Cop event was held on Friday 30 January in the morning at The Coffee Emporium in Stocklands Wetherill Park, a western Sydney suburb. On the event publicity flyer it stated “No agenda or speeches, just a chance to ask questions, voice concerns, and get to know the officers in your neighbourhood!”
Superintendent Peter Lennon of Fairfield LAC, NSW Police Force said that the “Coffee with a Cop” initiative originates from the US that has now the potential to be replicated in other parts of Australia.
“Previous events have been very successful and a great way for Police & community to mix and discuss what’s happening locally, nationally and around the world in a casual and relaxed environment – and I buy the coffee,” he said.
The monthly event is held in a community area with the aim of inviting members of the community to engage with Police Officers. Community members were able to convey what issues were important to them and were able to develop a good rapport with officers.
Members of the community attended included representatives from cultural and religious groups and organisations. They were able to meet with Police officers including the State’s only Muslim police chaplain Sheikh Ahmed Abdo as well as Reverend George Habib, a Christian.
The police chaplain’s role is to listen to the concerns and problems of civilian staff of the police force, police officers and their families from all faiths and backgrounds. As “help of the helpers”, chaplains continue to provide comfort and spiritual guidance to officers to help them deal with traumatic events.
Superintendent Lennon said “This is another opportunity for Police to meet with our Community; a great opportunity for our Arabic chaplains to meet our community also and interact for the Police.”
“I see as very important for our community to see and understand our Chaplaincy relationship,” he said,
In a multicultural society, the role of chaplains is crucial to promote unity at a time of increased tension and misunderstanding between Muslims and the wider community in light of the global conflicts.
With police and clergy working together during times of crisis, a more comprehensive and appropriate service can be provided to those in need.
The Police Chaplain Program creates a partnership with various faith-based leaders of a community to respond and assist police and other law enforcement agencies providing an overall better quality to the citizens of cities and communities.
The faith-based leaders will perform tasks of a more emotional, social or spiritual nature while the officers handle those tasks that are of a law enforcement nature.
The role of the Chaplain is to be the ‘balancer.’ The Police Chaplain is to provide support for Police Officer and civilians in their needs. Chaplains are there to provide appropriate assistance, advice, comfort, counsel and referrals to those in need who may request support.”
Tugba Ozen, a young community member who attended the Coffee with A Cop event expressed her keen interest in becoming a police officer. She had this great opportunity to liaise with police officers on their experience and was able to learn what steps are required to join the force.
Superintendent Peter Lennon welcomed for her to come to the station for a tour and further information in trying to develop a career with the NSW Police Force.