St. Louis police start new program designed to build community trust

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - If a cup of coffee can help calm the nerves and get your focus back then coffee with cops is the program St. Louis police hope will do those two such things for this town.

'Because we are the boots on the grounds that are doing this and we`ve seen it work,' says Capt. Keith Kauffman, Hawthorne, CA Police Department.  'All the things we are teaching are all the things we`ve seen and the mistakes we`ve made so that when they do their events they don`t have the same growing pains.'

Wednesday afternoon St. Louis city police officers were undergoing training for the program that tries to break down barriers with police and the citizens they serve.  The program began in Hawthorne, California a suburb of Los Angeles that had seen its share of crime and tensions with police.

'The same thing happens in Los Angeles,' says Kauffman.  'Before you can have problem solving you have to have trust.  When the trust is broken you`ll probably never get to the problem solved and people are not going to feel comfortable calling the police.'

Through a grant from the Justice Department the program has been put into action in ten regions around the U.S. Thursday morning area McDonald’s and Hardee’s locations will be brewing up conversations.

'When we`re reactive to crime we are good at it but that`s not what we do but that`s not the best way to solve crime,' says Kauffman.  'If I can get that community member to tell me something before it turns to the radio call I`m going to be able to solve it and that`s why it has a success rate.'

The group showed Norman Rockwell`s famous painting The Runaway on the eve of the program they hope will take average Joe`s working things out over a cup of Joe.