Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tigard Police Sgt. Jamie McDonald, Officer T.J. Hahn and Lt. Erick Boothsby chat with West Coast Bagels owner Eric Jeroch during the departments monthly Coffee with a Cop event. The public is encouraged to come and chat with officers in a non-intimidating environment.At West Coast Bagels on Greenburg Road, most of the customers are shy about approaching the three men sitting near the front of the store.

Dressed in their blue uniforms, the Tigard Police officers are all smiles and chatty.

“People are apprehensive when they see us, at first,” admitted Lt. Erick Boothsby. “I often have to approach them and say, ‘Hi.’ Then they see the sign, and that kicks off the conversation.”

It’s all part of the Tigard Police Department’s latest approach to community outreach, called “Coffee with a Cop.”

The idea is simple, said

Tigard Police spokesman Jim Wolf, every few weeks the department will have officers stationed at coffee shops across the city where people can meet, chat and get to know what’s going on in the community.

“It’s a barometer for the community,” Wolf said. “We want to know what we are doing right and where we need to refocus our efforts. It’s all about connecting with our customers, and that’s the community.”

Sgt. Jamey McDonald, who works in the department’s commercial crimes unit, said he’d like people to change the way they think about officers.

Check it out

Thursday, July 31,

Tigard Burgerville, 12785 S.W. Pacific Highway

9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Tuesday, Aug. 12,

Jubilatte at Tigard United Methodist Church, 9845 S.W. Walnut Place

10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Wednesday, Aug. 20,

Fred Meyer, 11565 S.W. Pacific Highway

11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

“When most of the community has contact with an officer, it’s in a traffic stop, and generally it’s not a positive experience on their end,” McDonald said. “We are hoping that this type of contact brings a more positive experience and people can see that there is a lot more to the police department than just making traffic stops. There’s more than what makes it into the newspaper.”

“Coffee with a Cop” get-togethers are planned at various coffee shops a few times a month, and are usually advertised only on the police department’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

The department isn’t the first to use this approach. Hillsboro Police launched a similar program in May, and Tigard Mayor John L. Cook holds regular fireside chats at coffeehouses once a month. McDonald said the outreach is a good way to keep the department accountable.

“We are your police department, and we want to know what matters to you,” McDonald said. “We know about a lot of the big things going on, but maybe we don’t know about a particular neighborhood issue. Maybe there’s something the police department can do to help, or maybe we can point you in the right direction. And maybe we’re doing a great job, and we want you to tell us that, too.”

Whether you live or work in Tigard, or just pass through occasionally, Wolf said it’s important to hear from everyone, including Tigard’s youngest residents.

“It’s important that kids understand that the police department is here to assist, contrary to what they might overhear or negative connotations they may pick up from adult conversations,” Wolf said. “It’s always a good opportunity to let kids know that police are there to serve the community. It’s not all about driving fast and taking people to jail.”

Even outside of the “Coffee with a Cop” events, McDonald said people shouldn’t be apprehensive of speaking to an officer if something is bothering them.

“This is a part of community policing. This is part of the mission of giving citizens and businesses the opportunity to be successful and have a livable environment,” he said.

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