Portland police will host a series of “Coffee-with-a-Cop” events at local Starbucks, beginning Friday at the chain’s Congress Street location.

A sign advertises the “Coffee with a Cop” meetings at Starbucks’ three locations in Portland during July. Randy Billings/Staff Writer

It’s the first time Portland has hosted one of the events, which have become popular nationwide in recent years with departments of all sizes.

The meeting at 2 p.m. Friday will be the first of three scheduled for July.

“We’re always looking for different ways to connect with community members, the business community and residents,” said interim Police Chief Vern Malloch in a brief interview. “This seemed like a good idea.”

The other meet-ups are scheduled for July 17 at 3 p.m. at the Exchange Street Starbucks, and July 23 at 2 p.m. at the Commercial Street Starbucks.

The meetings were planned weeks ago, and are not related to an incident last week in Tempe, Arizona, Malloch said.

In the Arizona incident, six police officers were asked to leave a Starbucks by a barista after a customer complained that the officers were making the customer uncomfortable. Starbucks responded by calling the incident “completely unacceptable” and apologizing to the police department.

The Portland meetings are the initiative of Community Policing Officer Dave Argitis, who patrols the West End and Parkside neighborhoods. He will be the officer attending each meeting, Malloch said.

If the initiative is successful, Malloch said, there could be plans to expand the practice in the future.

Coffee with a cop began in California in 2011 and has spread around the country as a tactic for police officers to interact with the public outside of emergency calls or confrontational situations.

In Maine, the practice has been popular with departments of all sizes, and especially for rural departments or sheriff’s departments, whose deputies patrol in cars across vast geographic areas that don’t have downtown, pedestrian friendly places that are natural, informal places to meet and interact with police officers.


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