HAMLET — The Hamlet Police Department will address community issues “one cup and one cop” at a time starting June 13 and continuing the second Wednesday of the month thereafter.
Coffee time will be 9 a.m. at the Hamlet Senior Center, 102 Veterans Drive, Hamlet. The public is welcome.
“It’s been a goal of mine since I became police chief … to be in touch with our community,” Scott Waters said Wednesday.
But the first few of his 3½ years as chief were taken up with bringing the department’s manpower up to snuff, he said — when he came in, the department was five officers down.
The Hamlet police have faced criticism as the result of their recent budget requests and the cancellation of last year’s Fourth of July fireworks, ostensibly because of a threat of gang activity. But Waters said the program wasn’t a response to criticism — it was in the works long ago.
“What we’re here for (is) to engage with the community, hear their concerns,” Waters said.
That’s what sparked him to reach out early on to Nikki Sewell, who directs the Hamlet Senior Center.
“She had the coffee,” Waters said.
“We talked a long time about this” but only recently set a schedule.
Sewell is asking for contributions of doughnuts to accompany the coffee, but Waters said he didn’t care about doughnuts — just “breaking the ice” with residents. (Those interested in contributing pastries may call Sewell at 910-582-7985.)
The 9 a.m. time likely will bring in seniors but not working people, Waters admitted.
“I can come in at 5:30 in the morning, if people want to talk,” he said. But for now, conversations with seniors will suffice.
Most contacts with law enforcement occur during emergencies or otherwise “emotional situations,” says a flier advertising the new program. “These situations are not always the most effective times to build relationships with the community,” plus “some community members may not feel that officers are approachable on the street.”
For her part, Sewell said the two were “hoping that together, the cops and the community can work together on common goals to make Hamlet a much better place to live.”
“Coffee with a Cop” is a national initiative sponsored by the Department of Justice and is intended to support better community policing.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]