During the first Coffee with a Cop of 2024, activity spilled over the sidewalk and onto the street as residents and Beverly Hills Police Department officers mingled over hot drinks and fresh pastries.
The BHPD takes pride in its close ties with residents, and for Chief Mark Stainbrook, the Jan. 18 event at Café Sheera felt like catching up with old friends.
“It’s kind of the first time during the year [when] we get to bond with the community and see them and see how their holidays were,” Stainbrook said. “It’s just a nice thing to do … to catch up to all our supporters and friends.”
Albert Myles, a former professional basketball player who now works in executive development, said he attended the event simply because he enjoys the sense of community the BHPD fosters.
“I’ve always been a big fan of what they do,” Myles said. “They find great people. They attract very positive people with the skills to be great officers.”
After being founded by the Hawthorne Police Department in 2011, Coffee with a Cop has grown into a national movement fostering closer ties between police officers and the communities they serve. But while many cities across the county hold the event once a year, the BHPD organizes the gathering once a quarter, Community Relations Unit Sgt. Jeffrey Newman said.
“That way we can see our public, our community, and get the pulse of what people are feeling, the issues that they might have, or simply just to meet a police officer from their community,” Newman said. “We know there’s sometimes a stigma around a uniform, and we want to break that and show people that we’re normal human beings who are here to help.”
Newman added that Coffee with a Cop is also an important opportunity to educate the public about the department’s many initiatives.
Drone pilots and motor officers were on site to address concerns about privacy and traffic safety, while officers from the Mental Health Evaluation Team spoke to residents about how they assist the city’s transient population and other individuals in crisis.
“We try to bring a collection of resources so that if anyone has some sort of concern outside of the usual, … we can try to address those with a smile on our face,” Newman said.
According to Stainbrook, residents’ main public safety concerns include criminals coming in from other jurisdictions, and the BHPD has embraced technology to reduce criminal activity infiltrating the city.
Coffee with a Cop helps educate the public about how the Real Time Watch Center and other technology including cameras, automated license plate readers and drones keep them safe, Newman added.
“When you combine all those together, we’re either catching people, deterring people, or even if they do commit a crime and leave the area, we have so much evidence gathered … [officers can] easily go out and catch those people outside of our jurisdiction,” he said.
The BHPD has gained wide recognition for its technological embrace, and while the public shows strong support for its efforts, there is greater awareness of how state and county laws have limited the BHPD’s effectiveness, Stainbrook said.
“People are coming to realize that the police can only do so much without the help of our district attorney’s office or state legislators who put in place common sense laws that keep violent, repetitive criminals in jail,” Stainbrook said.
But despite external constraints, the department is still looking for ways to improve, Stainbrook said.
Though he declined to provide specifics, Stainbrook said that in 2024, the department is planning to implement “really exciting technology that will get the citizens more opportunity to interact with the police department and be a partner in fighting crime and ensuring public safety.”