Coffee brings cops, community together

Naugatuck police Lt. Derek Vostinak, left, talks with Naugatuck resident Steven Sharik during the Naugatuck Police Department’s first Coffee with a Cop event April 26 at Dunkin’ Donuts, 72 Bridge St. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — More than a dozen police officers filled the Dunkin’ Donuts on Bridge Street last Friday morning, but there wasn’t an active investigation or even free doughnuts. Rather, it was a social call.

The officers mingled and talked with local residents as the Naugatuck Police Department held its first Coffee With a Cop event.

“It encourages engagement between the police department and the community in an informal setting,” Lt. Colin McAllister said.

Coffee with a Cop is a national community policing program designed to increase interaction with police and the community outside of the typical situations that law enforcement officers respond to within the community.

“It is important because we want people to be able to approach our officers not just in an investigative or formal capacity. We want to be able to have that relationship where people feel comfortable being able to approach our officers and members of the department. We think that this provides one of the forums for that,” McAllister said.

Police Chief Steven Hunt said the program is also to help build trust in the community.

“I just feel that we need to build trust and legitimacy with the community, and this is one of the ways we can go about that,” Hunt said. “This is more proactive, where we can get out and meet the community kind of in an informal setting, get to know them, and hear their concerns.”

For Naugatuck resident Steven Sharik, seeing the officers at Dunkin’ Donuts was a welcomed sight.

“I think it is an excellent program for them to get into the community and talk with people,” Sharik said. “I came in to ask questions and to tell them how much I appreciate their service. I couldn’t do this, I couldn’t be a police officer.”

Sharik said if he’s pulled over in Naugatuck at some point, he will feel less nervous if the officer is someone he has already talked to.

McAllister said the department plans to continue hosting Coffee with a Cop events, likely at different locations around the borough.