PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kent County Sheriff’s Office has taken a simple community policing event and turned it into a weekly gathering that residents look forward to attending.
Plainfield Township’s Coffee with a Deputy group has been going strong for two years now, minus a few months earlier this year because of COVID-19.
“In June, we started back up. But trying to stay with practicing social distancing to keep people safe, we decided to host it in one of our county parks,” Kent County Sheriff’s Deputy Mandy Bernal-Hill told News 8 Wednesday morning.
Now that the weather turned, the weekly meeting has moved to Plainfield Fire’s training center off Plainfield Avenue.
“Offering this program, it’s no agenda for the most part other than our scheduled guest speakers. We just come; we talk about issues in the community. If they have problems, sometimes it has nothing to do with there being a problem — it’s just the whole networking and meeting other people in our community,” Bernal-Hill added.
The community policing deputy has worked hard these last few years to engage with Plainfield Township residents. Some, like Vivian and Steve Hull, now attend weekly.
“When we first came into the coffee group, it was just a small group of maybe five, six people, but the word got out. We started spreading the word, and we’ve watched this group grow and grow a lot just since we’ve been coming,” Steve Hull told News 8.
The couple is now retired and enjoys learning about the different functions of the sheriff’s office. They even started their own neighborhood watch group with the support of Bernal-Hill.
“They’re more than just the badge and they really do care about what’s going on and they take the time,” Vivian Hull said. “They really are here for us. They care for us. They want to be here for the good things.”
Coffee with a cop events have long been used to strengthen community relations, but it’s not often weekly attendance numbers reach a few dozen consistently.
“I think the big thing with the community is they want to be heard. They have a voice and just being able to offer a time and a place every week — we’re here no matter what,” Bernal-Hill explained in response to what advice she’d offer other departments.
“We build a rapport with the community. If they have an issue, if they just want to say hello, they’re not afraid to approach us. I get a lot of phone calls. I get emails. Our group is definitely growing because they’re inviting their neighbors. They’re inviting their church members. They’re talking about it, so it makes me feel like we’ve done our part and we want to continue to build that and build a connection with the community and find out what their needs are. What they would like to see from the sheriff’s department,” she said.