Coffee with a Cop encourages community involvement
By Danielle Wellborn-Taylor
On Friday, the cafe corner of the Expo Quick Stop in Belton was filled with community members, police officers, plus free donuts, and coffee. “Coffee with a Cop” is an event that the Belton Police Department holds every quarter. “This is my favorite part of being a police officer, I’ve done a lot of hard and proactive policing, a lot of in your face narcotics, and after 20 years this is still the best part. Regardless of what the national agenda is saying, I’m seeing- at least in this community, I’m seeing people growing closer and uniting,” said Lieutenant Larry Berg.
Being a police officer is full of chances to engage the community, and help improve the lives of its citizens. It can also be a draining and daunting task.” The hardest part I think is the dark side. You know we see people at their worst. The thing is, you want to offer them hope. Sometimes their suicidal, sometimes we have to deliver tragic news like death notifications to families, and a lot of them are just without hope. The great thing here in Belton is that we actually have a partnership with the clergy, and we have integrated with the churches. Often times we are able to bring a chaplain with us to help,” said Berg
Officers were encouraging community members to take advantage of some of the programs the department offers. “If you live in the city limits of Belton, one of the things we try to encourage people to do is sign up for our E-watch Program. It’s basically just a virtual neighborhood watch. All we need is an email address or phone number, and your home address. And we will alert you if your area sees any criminal activity you know, if we’ve had someone leave their car unlocked and there happened to be a burglary, we will send out a warning or a reminder to make sure to lock you car…things like that,” said LT Berg.
The Belton Police Department is full of engagement opportunities for everyone. “We’re volunteers with the CHIPS program, which stands for Citizens Helping in Police Services, we do a lot of events, we roam the crowd and just give a presence and make sure everyone is being safe. We also do surveillance in the parks and help with administrative duties. Every member of our program has to attend the 10-week Citizens Police Academy Program, which starts again in January. The academy opens up a lot of different volunteer opportunities and gives you a behind the scenes look at what these guys do, and really helps you feel like part of the family. We do mock building searches, we do traffic stops, and ride alongs. You can go to the station and fill out an application to get started,” said CHIPS member Cheryl Grote.
There are also programs for youths interested in opportunities with the Belton PD. “The Explorers program is a training program for kids. It provides leadership opportunities, career inspired experience, and community service activities, and it’s a really great way to get them involved” Grote says.
In addition, there is a one-week program in the summer. The Youth Police Academy, which is modeled after the Citizens Police Academy. It offers first-hand knowledge of the role of a police officer and encourages healthy relationships between youth and police. The program is designed for middle or high school aged youth who live in Belton or are enrolled in Belton ISD.