In a first, Groton Town police participate in Coffee with a Cop Day

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Groton — Town police on Wednesday camped out at Starbucks for a couple of hours as part of the second annual National Coffee with a Cop Day.

A first for the Groton Town department, it’s an event Chief Louis J. Fusaro Jr. said he hoped would be mutually beneficial: Residents could learn from cops what their days are like, and cops could learn from residents where they should focus more resources.

“It’s all about community outreach and community policing,” Fusaro said. “This is about getting a good relationship with the people coming in here in a very relaxed environment.”

Inside the Poquonnock Road shop, four officers and a new hire, who’s about to head to the state police academy, gathered around a table stocked with food samples, answering questions from residents and children alike.

How has the town’s crime rate been doing, one person asked. What are the areas that town police routinely cover?

And, from a young boy: "Why do you guys have guns and Tasers?"

Patrol Officer Richard Savino smiled as he recalled that one. He told the boy officers would rather not hurt people, and using a Taser in general is less dangerous than using a gun.

The group of excitable kids armed with handmade cards — “We love Groton PD,” one read — caught the officers a bit off guard. They had brought coloring books just in case a child or two showed up, but weren’t expecting many on a weekday.

According to resident Candace Huss, the group hailed from Community Baptist Church, which she said has a large homeschooling community. The children who visited ranged from 4 to 12 years old, she said.

“We thought it was important for the kids to meet these community helpers and put a face with the officers so it’s not just a concept,” she said. “So (the children) know that they’re people, that they have a job to do and they care for the community.”

Nearby, Investigator Derek Robertson said he appreciated the opportunity to interact with the public in a calm situation, as opposed to during a traffic stop or something worse.

Michael Whitehouse, who’s involved with the Groton Business Association, had a similar outlook.

“Police are a key relation to the business community,” he said. "It's always good for businesses to have contacts with police before they need them."

Whitehouse came to Starbucks with his wife, Amy, who works for a nearby apartment community. They learned of the event from Facebook.

“I like the idea of community outreach,” Amy Whitehouse said. “Being able to see police come out and meet people, I think it’s a really positive thing.”

“Gone are the days when you could wave at an officer as he rides by on a bike,” Michael Whitehouse added. “But it’s still good, whenever possible, to try to have that type of relationship. It makes the community better and it makes (officers’) jobs easier.”

Last year, more than 600 departments participated in the event in Starbucks and other coffee shops in the United States and Canada, according to the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, which is an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Members of the office expected this year’s event would be even bigger.

Fusaro commended Starbucks for being so open to partnering with police on the initiative.

“I think we’ll do this more in the future,” he said.

l.boyle@theday.com

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