Event brings coffee, emergency personnel and community together

‘Badges & Brews’ looked to increase connections between law enforcement and civilians

Coffee with a Cop is a growing tradition across the country, as departments seek opportunities to meet members of the community under less fraught circumstances than police usually encounter the public.

On Thursday afternoon, Sept. 22, at 6 p.m., Aberdeen introduced its own variation on the theme, as Starbucks, the Aberdeen Police Department, the Aberdeen Fire Department, Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office and Aberdeen’s emergency management office hosted “Badges & Brews,” bringing together the organizations and the public.

“Badges & Brews is our own thing. This is something Starbucks asked us to do,” said Sgt. Gary Sexton of the Aberdeen Police Department, one of the organizers. “Everyone is coming to this with the mindset of breaking down barriers.”

The last iteration in 2019 was a more straightforward Coffee with a Cop-type event at the Starbucks on Wishkah Street, the same location as this year, Sexton said.

“This is about community engagement and being approachable,” Sexton said. “You don’t have to buy something to participate.”

This year’s event had an expanded scope, with dozens of emergency personnel and Starbucks employees taking part, said Jaki Meeks, store manager of the Starbucks. Aaron’s, next door, also volunteered their parking lot to create more space for department vehicles.

“We’re all part of the community,” said Meeks in an interview. “It evolved into something bigger than we planned.”

This year’s gathering had special events, such as latte making competitions, a cold brew chug, a silent auction, and information stations, Meeks said.

“There’s a lot of information that’s going to be there, and a lot of opportunities,” Sexton said.

Members of the participating departments had vehicles and equipment for people to interact with, as well as some specialist members of their departments, including some of the APD’s working dogs, Sexton said.

“You’re not going to have nothing to do here,” said Detective Stephen Heller of the sheriff’s office.

Emergency personnel also took the opportunity to get behind the counter and serve drinks, Sexton said, his favorite part from last time.

“I’m excited for people to work behind the bar,” Sexton said. “I did it in 2019 and it was an absolute blast.”

Heller was one of the amateur baristas slinging drinks for this year’s event.

“I’m excited to do it,” Heller said. “It gives me the opportunity to connect with people.”

The Starbucks drive-thru remained open during the event, Meeks said, though customers had to follow signs to access it. Parking was being provided across Wishkah Street at Tractor Supply Co., Sexton said.

“The city has helped with the signage,” Meeks said. “It’ll be well laid out.”