First ‘Cops and Coffee’ gathering seeks to improve communication with the community

By Levi Spring, Staff Writer –

Officer Scott Hepsworth from the Muskegon Police Department was one of several police officers who met with students and community members at the recent ‘Cops and Coffee’ event on campus - Photo by Levi Spring.
Officer Scott Hepsworth from the Muskegon
Police Department was one of several
police officers who met with students and
community members at the recent ‘Cops
and Coffee’ event on campus – Photo by Levi Spring.

Discussions on community policing, race consciousness, the Black Lives Matter

movement, national protests filled the air in the Blue and Gold Room last week for the first

“Cops and Coffee” event. The conversations even included the quality of the coffee and tasty

doughnuts.

Students and members of the Muskegon general public were recently offered the rare

chance of spending time with active police officers engaging in one-on- one informal

conversation.

“Community understanding of what the Muskegon Police Department expects of them,

and understanding what the community expects from us, can really go such a long ways for

positive police and public relations,” said by Scott Hepsworth, a 15-year veteran of the MPD and

life-long resident of the Muskegon community. He is an MCC alumni as well as a Grand Valley

State University graduate.

Community policing was the most popular topic heard around the tables. There some

heart-breaking stories from attendees sharing their appreciation for the way the Muskegon Police

Department handles situations. One woman shared how the local police officer had treated her

family and son fairly in a situation that occurred, and she began crying as she addressed her

appreciation and love for the officer who treated her toddler in a responsible and morally sound

way.

“The police department and officers of Muskegon hold ourselves to an extremely high

standard and we make it a point to make sure the public can always be heard,” said Hepsworth.

He explained the citizens police review board, consisting of several community members

and retired police officers. The committee’s goal is to make sure the public has a fair an equal

chance to share concerns and opinions relating to cases, situations, and investigations. This

committee also works as an appeal system for public disagreement with findings after an internal

investigation by the department.

The “Cops and Coffee” event was organized and partially sponsored by Denny Powers,

the police-community coordinator for the MPD. Powers is a non-officer employed by the police

department to organize events such as this one.

Another program he coordinates is the Citizens Police Academy put on yearly by the

MPD. It is a 10-day program in which local residents 17 years of age or older can learn about

police and other public response teams, as well as their policies and operations. At the end of the

program participants have the opportunity to ride along in a patrol car for a day. The application

deadline for the next academy is March 10, 2017, and the course start date is March 22.

 

Featured Image: Several MCC students and community residents met with officers from the Muskegon POlice Department for a “Cops and Coffee” dialogue. – Photo by Levi Spring

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