MORE THAN LAW AND ORDER
Visitors to the Owatonna Target last Wednesday were greeted by a pair of police patrolling the café. The officers were there to dish out coffee, hot cocoa, and smiles.
This is the first year the Owatonna Police Department has held Coffee with a Cop, an event aimed at connecting members of the community with their local law enforcement. “We like to make it so that there isn’t a wall between us and the community,” Officer Travis Johnson said.
During the Wednesday evening shift, Officer Johnson was joined by Officer Anna Peterson, both of whom had big smiles as they interacted with the community by sharing thoughts, having some coffee, and handing out stickers to eager kids.
“I’m a native of Owatonna, born and raised here, and I just love being out in the community,” Johnson said. “We also get to do Shop with a Cop here and that’s always fun.”
Both officers, as well as those who helmed the coffee shop in the morning, volunteered as a way to get out in the community and meet those they protect and serve. “This is my favorite part of the job, getting out here and talking to people,” Officer Peterson said. “We make a lot of connections this way and it’s good for us.”
Officer Peterson hails from Blooming Prairie, and recently started with the Owatonna Police Department last May. “There’s a lot of familiar faces, even from Blooming, who are coming through which is really cool to see,” she said.
“We’ve been really busy this summer, and a lot of times we were going call to call and our call volume is finally starting to drop down for the winter months now so we can take a little breather,” Officer Peterson said in relation to more relaxing events like this one.
Officer Johnson agreed. “It’s a different role,” he said. “I would say that we’re a very community-orientated department where we’re trying to be out in the community.”
“Honestly, I just like being out in the community and creating that positive role model presence for the kids,” Officer Peterson said when asked what her favorite part of the job is. “I personally believe that if you can get kids at a younger age and create that positive impact on them, we’re going to see them less as they grow up.”
With the positive reception from the community, Johnson and Peterson are hoping that this could be a regular event. The Owatonna Police Department holds several community outreach events, including Night to Unite and Shop with a Cop.
“We also do ride-alongs,” Peterson explained. “We highly encourage people to do ride-alongs with us because they see it differently when they’re sitting in the squad car versus us driving around, and they can really get to know what we truly do.”
Events like this one are a great way for citizens to voice their opinion. “I always ask them what’s going on, because they’re the eyes and ears of the neighborhood and we can only be so many places,” Johnson said.
“We had a lot of handshakes and a lot of thank yous tonight, which is nice to hear,” Peterson said. “That’s not why we’re here but it’s still really cool to see that from the community.”
Overall Coffee with a Cop was a great way for citizens to get to know some members of their local law enforcement while also sharing any of their own thoughts. “We have a lot of support in the Owatonna community, it’s great,” Johnson said.