Liberty Police Department met with citizens over cups of coffee, plates of cookies and, yes, boxes of donuts, at the third annual Coffee With a Cop event on Oct. 3 at the Liberty Walmart. The event allows residents to meet with police officers in an informal, friendly setting, and to put faces to the officers’ names they sometimes see in the news.
Liberty Police Chief Thomas Claunch, who joined the department more than three and a half years ago, started the local recognition of National Coffee With a Cop during his first year as chief. Previous events were held at Brookshire Brothers and Generations Coffee Shop.
“The Coffee With a Cop event gives people an opportunity to meet us in a neutral setting. They get to know a little more about us. It builds a bond and we need that,” Claunch said. “What you see on the TV news is not necessarily the truth [about police]. I think there is a bias against law enforcement from the national news.”
In a small community like Liberty, police often rely on citizens to report crime and leads in criminal investigations, which is why it is imperative to keep a line of communication open between law enforcement and citizens.
“The citizens have information we need at times. If we have a bond, they are more apt to give us that information and help us solve a crime,” Claunch said. “They need to know we are not the bad guys. We are trying to keep crime out of our city. We don’t want bad people around our good people. We want this to be a safe place to live.”
Claunch said the crime rate in Liberty is relatively low, which he credits, in part, to the close bonds police enjoy with the majority of citizens.
“The majority of people in this town are good, hard-working folks. It’s our job to make them feel more comfortable to go about their lives,” he said.
Claunch encourages parents to teach their children that police officers are people they should seek out in a time of crisis, such as when they are lost or have been victimized.
When asked if he confronts parents who make threats to their children in the presence of police to “have the children arrested if they are bad,” Claunch said he simply cautions parents.
“I tell them, ‘Please, don’t do that. We want them to know that if they have a problem, they can come to us. We aren’t here just to put people in jail,'” the chief said.
Claunch thanked Walmart for hosting this year’s Coffee With a Cop.