Cuppas building community

Winter meets Acting Senior Sergeant David Sweeney.

Cops and customers came together for a cuppa at the Hairy Dog.

The Gembrook cafe hosted the town’s first Coffee with a Cop event on Tuesday 21 May.

Helen Moir owns the Hairy Dog with husband Craig and heard about the initiative from barista Kelly.

“It’s a good way for people and police to come together on neutral ground,” she said.

“People might feel more relaxed.”

Victoria Police covered the coffees during the hour-long event in a bid to bolster relationships between cops and the community.

Senior Sergeant Nathan Prowd said Coffee with a Cop gave his officers the opportunity to hear community concerns and how they could be addressed.

One mum explained to an officer that she was trying to teach her toddler son about uniforms.

Debbie from Cockatoo heard about the event and brought her young granddaughter Winter along.

“It’s a bit different to going to the park,” she said.

“She loves babyccinos.”

Neighbourhood Watch Cardinia secretary David Farrelly said NHW used to organise the Coffee with a Cop events.

A couple of years ago the Department of Justice decided with the police to run the initiative themselves.

Mr Farrelly said sharing a cuppa gave police a chance to interact with people they wouldn’t normally see.

“And it’s a great informal way for people to understand police are human – everyday people doing a job as best they can,” he said.

“Being able to reach out to all parts of the Cardinia community is vital.

“Not all these people have social media.

“If you don’t do these kinds of things you lose connections into the future as well.”

Lakeside College Year 10 student Hannah Karnakowski attended as part of her two-year traineeship with Victoria Police.

She’ll earn a certificate three in business management through the Skillinvest placement that has her spending each Tuesday at Pakenham Police Station.

She’s wanted to become a police officer since she was five years old

Hannah said Coffee with a Cop was a great idea and was enjoying the morning.

“I learn a lot in how to communicate,” she said.

“I love how they get to engage with the community and not just bad people all the time.”

Community engagement co-ordinator Senior Constable Riki-Lee White said people often felt like their issues weren’t big enough to bring to a police station, so Coffee with a Cop gave them a chance to bring them up in a casual setting.

“It’s a positive thing for police as well, to feel more informed and interact with all different age groups and demographics,” she said.