Coffee with a Cop opens dialogue between SSL officers and residentsMar 31, 2023 01:00PM ● By Peri Kinder
South Salt Lake Police Chief Jack Carruth and SSL Chamber of Commerce President Gary Birdsall started the Coffee With with a Cop program in 2014. (City Journals)
The South Salt Lake Police Department is building community relationships with coffee and conversation. For almost nine years, the department has been part of the Coffee with a Cop program, a national initiative to improve trust and communication between officers and the people they serve.
SSL Police Chief Jack Carruth partnered with the SSL Chamber of Commerce to bring the program to the city in 2014. It changed venues several times over the years before landing at Délice Bakery & Café (2747 S. State St.), owned by Jean-Jacques “JJ” Grossi.
Coffee with a Cop meets at the bakery on the first Wednesday of each month from 9-10 a.m., and the public is welcome to stop by and visit.
“A lot of times it’s the same faces and then we get a bunch of new faces,” Carruth said. “They get to know officers one-on-one. It’s not a formal setting, there are no rules. You just build friendships.”
Regular attendees include SSL city council members, business owners and residents. Officers or city representatives often give updates about happenings in the community and listen to feedback from attendees. Visitors to the bakery will sometimes pick up the tab for the event as a way of thanking the officers for their service.
SSL City Councilmember Clarissa Williams frequents the event regularly and encourages residents to take advantage of the program to get to know the officers serving the city.
“We get to know the officers on a personal level,” Williams said. “You learn how relatable they are. It’s about coming around the table with them and all the officers are willing to listen. I think it’s a great way to connect with the community.”
Coffee with a Cop was first launched in 2011 in Hawthorne, California, as a way to address the shifting needs of the area. The community policing program has always been seen as a way to remove barriers, build trust and improve communication between officers and residents and the Coffee With with a Cop events built on that framework.
The program is now in all 50 states and can also be found in Canada, Europe, Australia, Africa and Latin America. In fact, Carruth’s wife, Jacquelyn Carruth, serves as the police chief in Duluth, Georgia, and started the Coffee with a Cop program in her area. It’s considered one of the most impactful practices to improve community oriented policing programs.
There is no agenda for the meetings. The idea is to just get together and start conversations, answer questions and be available for whomever might need connection to the officers.
Britney Warner is the city’s business watch officer. She has served the community for 15 years and attends Coffee Wth with a Cop to talk with business owners about crime prevention.
“Whatever problems businesses are having, I help them out with that,” Warner said. “We like to make ourselves available to businesses and remind them they can come here and talk to us face-to-face.”
Gary Birdsall, president of the SSL Chamber of Commerce, said the business owners and residents who attend the event have found the relationships invaluable, as they’ve gotten to know the officers who protect South Salt Lake.
“This is just an example of the incredible outreach the police do in the city,” Birdsall said.