Coffee with a Cop builds relationships between students and campus police

Sarah Abney

Have you ever wondered why police officers are stereotypically associated with coffee and donuts? 

UMKC’s Multicultural Student Affairs Office used what is often a joke about police as an opportunity for UMKC cops and students to interact.

Multicultural Student Affairs invited UMKC police officers and students together for a complimentary coffee and donut social event last week, formally known as Coffee with a Cop. 

A long standing event in the UMKC community and elsewhere, Coffee with a Cop events of the past have been used to spark conversations between civilians and law enforcement in hopes to establish a sense of open communication. 

“In the time we are in and the things we have seen going on in our country, I think it is important to always encourage our students to remember that the core of our campus police, and police in general, are here to protect and serve,” said Multicultural Student Affairs Director Keichanda Dees-Burnett. “That’s a relationship that we need to nurture.” 

Dees-Burnett said campus police are meant to be as approachable as other UMKC staff.

“It’s meant to see that they are human too, they are down to earth, you can ask them questions just as you utilize the staff…campus police are here to serve you too,” said Dees-Burnett.

However, despite the best intentions of all involved, there were few conversations to facilitate. The event, held on a weekday morning, saw little student turnout.

Reflecting Dees-Burnett’s point, several students expressed the types of negativity towards law enforcement the event sought to resolve.

“I think everyone gets a little nervous when they see a police officer, especially when you are in a car,” said sociology student Charlene Badami. “I think for many individuals there is a disconnect, and social class can play a big part in trusting authority figures.” 

Fellow UMKC student Sophia Cobos shared her thoughts. 

“I feel like it’s how you are approached by an officer,” said Cobos in what could determine how safe she felt. 

“I think people can’t help but feel intimidated when you see that uniform and badge,” Dees-Burnett said. 

As the unrest surrounding law enforcement over the past decade suggests, law-enforcement officials such as campus police officers can be intimidating to the everyday person. 

However, despite some students’ suspicion surrounding police, Dees-Burnett remains optimistic about the potential of these communicative events. 

“They are meant to humanize police, make it not [to] be such an intimidating position,” Dees-Burnett said. 

Open events such as this past week’s are part of efforts to hopefully establish relationships between students and police officers. Though attendance was small, UMKC’s Coffee with a Cop event was a reminder of the importance of connection and building trust on UMKC’s own campus.

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