Fort Collins Police uses community events to connect with Fort Collins

Ravyn Cullor

Turns out, cops are people too.

Fort Collins Police Services has been running events like Coffee with a Cop for years in an attempt to bring the community and the law enforcement officers who serve them closer together.

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Coffee with a Cop is among a number of other events, like Pizza with Police and Donuts with a Dispatcher, that FCPS has run or will soon be running to allow residents of Fort Collins to interact with officers, ask questions and discuss issues they see in the community, said Kate Kimble, the FCPS public relations manager.

“These events are an opportunity for area officers to connect with residents,” Kimble said. “A lot of people don’t often encounter police, and when they do, it’s in the middle of a traffic stop or something where they may be having a bad day, so it’s not the most opportune time for them to be able to ask questions and connect with their local police.”

Kimble said community engagement is a priority at FCPS, and the officers are genuinely interested in being part of the community.

Officer Erin Feit said she has seen Chief Jeff Swoboda lead by example and engage with people on his own, like in a pick-up basketball game he arranged with the Boys and Girls Club and a few officers.

The FCPS also has a specialized outreach team for Spanish-speaking residents. The team addresses issues and questions Spanish-speaking and migrant communities might have, Kimble said.

For Feit, these events help her understand the issues and concerns of the community and remind her why she got into the career in the first place.

“Like in any type of job, after a while, you can forget the reason why you started doing something,” Feit said. “For me, when I get to have those positive interactions, I get to remember why I started doing this. Even on the days when it’s all negative, it can kind of serve as that little positive to keep going.”

After a handful of incidents which involved physical or deadly force, Feit said the community engagement events allow for citizens to ask questions about what happened and why.

“It’s important that we don’t have cops getting upset with citizens for not understanding and citizens getting upset with cops because they think that we’re held to our own standards,” she said. “We need to come together to have these conversations.”

Most of the events are publicized by FCPS’ social media and sometimes by the coffee shops where they are held, but Kimble said they would like to make them more accessible to people who want to attend. The next event will be a Pizza with Police event held later in April, she said.

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“I’d encourage people to come, even if it’d be a little uncomfortable or weird,” Feit said. “I think that they’d be surprised how laid back and how normal we all are.”

Ravyn Cullor can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @RCullor99.