Police to meet residents each month over drinks in new Coffee with a Cop initiative

Police officer Syamsul Hidzam talking to members of the public at the Coffee with a Cop booth at the Police Community Roadshow at One Punggol on June 17. ST PHOTO: EUGENE TAN

SINGAPORE – A new programme will let residents meet their neighbourhood’s police officers more regularly, rather than mainly in passing on the street and during crises.

From June, all 35 neighbourhood police centres (NPCs) across the island will step up their public engagement by hosting monthly Coffee with a Cop sessions at food and beverage outlets in their respective neighbourhoods.

In each two-hour session, residents will be able to chat with up to four officers from their local Community Policing Unit (CPU) about any topic over coffee or tea, with the Singapore Police Force (SPF) picking up the tab.

Launching the initiative at the Police Community Roadshow at One Punggol on Saturday, Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean said Singapore’s reputation as one of the safest countries in the world is built on the trust between the police and the community.

A 2021 survey conducted by the SPF found that 96 per cent of respondents said they trusted the police, and 98 per cent said they were willing to help and provide information to police officers, said Mr Teo.

“Maintaining the strong relationship between the police and the community requires continuous effort,” he added.

The police usually engage specific groups such as young people, residents and workplaces with targeted intention and messaging, said Assistant Commissioner of Police Shng Yunn Chinn, director of SPF’s Community Partnership Department.

In contrast, Coffee with a Cop is open to all members of the public, and has no specific agenda.

“We wanted a platform to let members of the public approach us easily in a very convenient and accessible manner, just to build trust and for them to have deeper conversations with us,” he said.

For instance, officers can educate residents on local crime trends, while residents can also raise any concerns about their neighbourhood and receive guidance on lodging a report if necessary, he added.

The nationwide programme comes after the police conducted a three-month pilot in 2022.

The SPF was inspired by similar initiatives in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, but was not sure whether this could work in Singapore given the different cultural contexts, said AC Shng.

From June to September 2022, police officers from three NPCs – Sengkang, Geylang and Bukit Timah – engaged more than 230 residents from all walks of life at fast food outlets, hawker centres and coffee joints in their community.

Post-event surveys with participants showed that 99 per cent said they would recommend it to their friends and family.

“We’re heartened by the feedback, and we realised that sometimes it’s a matter of giving the public an opportunity to come forward,” said AC Shng.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Shng Yunn Chinn (right), director of SPF’s Community Partnership Department, said Coffee with a Cop allows the police to build trust with the public. Sergeant Nor’aisah Mohd Perdaus was part of the initiative’s pilot programme in 2022. ST PHOTO: EUGENE TAN

Sergeant Nor’aisah Mohd Perdaus, an officer involved in the pilot, said it helped her clarify misconceptions some members of the public had about police work.

For instance, a few teenagers asked her why they were being screened by police officers at night.

“I told them that we are concerned (about their safety and) are not there to chase them out; we’re there to make sure that they are fine,” said Sgt Nor’aisah.

Sergeant Nor’aisah Mohd Perdaus speaking with a member of the public in the Coffee with a Cop pilot programme held in 2022. PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

But the conversation that left the deepest impression on her was not crime-related.

One work pass holder poured his heart out to her, as his wife and son had returned to their home country.

His son had wanted to be a police officer, but never had the chance to meet one here before he went home.

“He was stressed because he was living alone... Everything was pent up inside him,” said the 33-year-old police officer, who is also a mother of three children.

She encouraged him to stay connected with the police through social media, and to bring his son to meet them one day.

“Coffee with a Cop is not only for us to share about crime trends, but it is more of a casual talk with (the residents),” said Sgt Nor’aisah. “When we are there for them, that’s where we build trust.”

On Saturday, the Coffee with a Cop booth at the Police Community Roadshow saw a sizeable crowd chatting with officers.

Housewife Jenevieve Lim, 38, joined the coffee table with her four-year-old daughter and husband in tow.

She lauded the new initiative, saying residents can now clarify directly with officers any queries they may have.

Ms Jenevieve Lim (in black) and her daughter chatting with a police officer at the Coffee with a Cop booth at the Police Community Roadshow at One Punggol on June 17. ST PHOTO: EUGENE TAN

“I asked about part-time volunteering opportunities with the police, while my daughter was very excited to know about the officers’ job scope,” said Madam Lim.

Other activities the public can expect at the roadshow, which has returned after a five-year hiatus, include live demonstrations of SPF’s capabilities, and trying crime scene investigations in a mock-up scene.

The roadshow is at One Punggol over the weekend, and will move to Toa Payoh Hub the following weekend.

The public can check their respective NPCs’ social media pages for updates about upcoming Coffee with a Cop sessions.

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