COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -
Immigration enforcement has become a top priority in recent years and as many might imagine, it's had a cooling effect on relations between police and the Latino community. 70% of Latinos are less likely to call 911 when victims of crime.
KRDO NewsChannel13's Cinthia Maldonado tells us about the efforts local law enforcement is making to change that.
In many cultures a cup of coffee can be a shared experience, one that sparks conversation.
"Hablo español muy poquito!" (Hi, I speak little Spanish).
"Hola, como están todos? " (Hi, how is everyone doing?).
And on Saturday? No one was letting a language barrier stop them from making that bond.
"What I fear most in our community is that we have people that aren't willing to come forward when victims of crime," says Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey.
"It’s important that we see each other in a light that's a method we can communicate and not adversarial in a method of arrest," says El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder.
At Coffee with a Cop, immigration was a hot topic. Chief Pete Carey explains to citizens they're not immigration officers, "To be available and let people know we are people to and that's not our primary goal."
The forum was open to all kinds of questions. For example, Marco Arias asked if a driver needed to answer all the questions an officer asks when being pulled over.
"We talked about traffic and other situations if you end up going to jail and perhaps what questions were going to be asked by the authorities. Also general concerns," says Deputy Carlos Gutierrez. He helped with the translation.
Colombian immigrant Edgar Romero says the event was helpful, "We see these events as very positive and we hope to continue them because it allows us to express our concerns and needs. Also it allows us to get closer to [the officers]."
Both heads of the law enforcement agencies in El Paso County say they'll continue building a stronger relationship, with those who at times hesitate to call 911.
Coffee with a Cop occurs on a monthly basis across the city.