TOMS RIVER – Toms River residents got a chance to sit down with local law enforcement over a cup of coffee this morning at Toms River Police Department’s first-ever Coffee With A Cop event.
Held at the McDonald’s on Hooper Ave., officers got the chance to hear what’s going on in the community directly from the residents. The free breakfast was just a plus.
Sgt. Ron Sermarini stated that the event “is part of the campaign to go out and talk to the public…if anybody has questions for us we’re happy to answer them.”
Local law enforcement are hoping that more events like these will help make police “more approachable” and help them to be seen as not just an officer, but also as a person.
“We’re hoping that people know that we’re us, we’re people too,” said Patrolman Ryan Parente. “We’re there for them and we’re part of the community”
And it was not a coincidence that police chose October 3 to have this event. October 3 has been deemed National Coffee with a Cop Day in an effort to “bring police officers and the community members they serve together – over coffee – to discuss community issues, learn more about each other and build relationships in an informal, neutral environment,” according to the initiative.
Some of the issues brought up to Toms River officers at the event were those related to Superstorm Sandy.
“We’ve talked a little bit about Sandy recovery with some of the residents that are here,” said Ptl. Parente. “They were telling us their stories about how their houses were damaged and how we were there to help them and protect their properties while they weren’t able to stay there.
“They let us know that we did a good job,” he added.
Sgt. Sermarini noted that the essence of the event “is just to hear where they [the residents] come from…we’re not always going to get an opportunity to sit down with them,” to discuss the issues.
Considering that Toms River is a relatively large community made up of various neighborhoods, Sgt. Sermarini pointed out that it is important to recognize the issues and concerns individuals to different areas of town.
“We do want the public to know that we’re here for them, and if there’s any issues that we may not know about, to just bring that to our attention,” he said.
Mayor Thomas Kelaher also came out for some coffee with the cops, calling it “a great idea.”
“I have a lot of law enforcement background and it’s important to know these [cops] are all human beings too and they have families,” he said.
Kelaher made sure to thank McDonald’s for stepping up to host the event at their Hooper Avenue location and providing the food and coffee.
“We’re big supporters of the police department and a lot of people never have interaction with the police unless their pulled over,” said Donna Belbey, McDonald’s owner/operator. “As local business owners, we look forward to hosting these events in the communities we serve, arm-in-arm beside our local police officers.”
Resident Bill Becker was also present at the event to give the Toms River Police Department homemade plaques, decorated with items associated with the police force.
Numerous other townships hosted their own Coffee with a Cop events including Manchester, Berkeley, Brick, Pine Beach, and Stafford.