In an effort to strengthen the increasingly tense relationship between police and the communities they serve, Starbucks announced it will host 100 "Coffee with a Cop" events at stores around the U.S. The program has been active in the company's home city of Seattle since September of last year, bringing together members of the community and police officers to find a little common ground.
"Starbucks has a long-standing relationship with the police department here, so we decided to engage them with the customers who visit our stores," Starbucks South Seattle District Manager Sean Greenlee said. "Once we brought them all together, there was a greater sense of understanding on both sides and many assumptions were laid to rest."
Now, the company is hoping to replicate that success on a wider scale.
At a Feb. 17 symposium hosted by the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Starbucks CEO and Chairman Howard Schultz joined Seattle Chief of Police Kathleen O'Toole in announcing plans to host 100 of these Coffee with a Cop events across its stores in 2017.
Along with NOBLE, Starbucks is partnering with the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Major Cities Chiefs Association, with the first round of events in Dallas, Indianapolis, New York, Seattle and Norfolk, Virginia.
"Starbucks has always served as a gathering place for communities across the country to come together - including law enforcement and the people they serve and protect," said Schultz. "The "Coffee with a Cop" program builds on a tradition that began in our stores and continues to grow each day. We are pleased to host meetings in our stores across the U.S. where police and the community can meet and share experiences to foster greater understanding and empathy."
Seattle Chief of Police O'Toole echoed Schultz's sentiments about the program.
"Community trust is critical to effective policing," O'Toole said. "Trust can only be achieved through ongoing engagement and dialogue. We are grateful to Starbucks for this opportunity to build greater trust and understanding between our officers and those we serve."
There's good reason to think the program will yield some positive results. After the 2016 National Coffee with a Cop Day, 70 percent of residents said they felt better about their local police after the talks, and 87 percent said they'd encourage friends to participate in the program.