LINDEN, NJ — For Jean Perez, a Linden resident for 11 years, visiting her police department’s “Coffee with a Cop” event was about interacting with officers in person rather than through social media.
“I wanted to put a face to the police officers,” Perez said outside the Starbucks in Aviation Plaza on Oct. 4. “I don’t really know about them. That is the most No. 1 complaint in our ward is that we want to get to interact, at least on a positive note.”
Perez said she spoke with Linden police Lt. Christopher Guenther, who recognized her right away because he handles social media and she leaves comments online all the time. She said she asked him about getting more patrols in her ward.
Guenther said the event was not only about listening to residents’ concerns, but also about getting to know people in the community better.
“We can talk about the Yankees, we can talk about how bad the Giants are doing, whatever people want to do,” he told LocalSource. “It’s just about getting together and all having a good time together.”
When Perez first arrived at the coffee shop, she spoke with Councilwoman Rhashonna Cosby-Hurling, from her own ward. The councilwoman said the event was good for people like Perez, whose only interaction with police may be virtual.
“The emails that she sends or the phone calls she makes, now they can put a face to it and know who she is,” Cosby Hurling said. “I think it’s an awesome idea to come in and just have a casual conversation with the police and get to know who’s in their area.”
Councilman Barry Javick, who represents the 2nd Ward, also attended to the event to support the police, as did 10th Ward Councilwoman Gretchen Hickey, whose father was a Linden cop.
“My father was a police officer in Linden, so it’s a close place to my heart,” Hickey said. “I don’t think everyone always understands their day-to-day, or what they have to go through and live with and the consequences of going out on the street. So I do truly appreciate them.”
Hickey said she spoke with officers about some issues her residents have brought up, like wanting to see more patrols in their wards. Likewise, Javick said one of Linden City Council’s main concerns was to hire more officers, since the department is under its full complement right now.
“I’ve been pushing as a councilwoman to get more on our police department,” Hickey said. “And it’s happening, but the residents don’t understand that it takes almost a year to train them.”
Linden Mayor Derek Armstead did not attend the event, but provided LocalSource with the following statement Oct. 5: “Linden Police Department’s ‘Coffee with a Cop’ outreach is excellent for the community and an outstanding public safety initiative. Starbucks’ willingness to host the event demonstrates that public and private partnerships working together strengthen and benefit our community.”
This was the second “Coffee with a Cop” event in Linden. Guenther said the department hopes to host more events throughout the year.