COLORADO SPRINGS -
Police often fight not just crime but also community distrust and disapproval. So, Police in Southern Colorado are reaching out to the Latino community in hopes of strengthening bonds between cops and citizens.
Local law enforcement agencies are now trying something new to connect with the Hispanic community. It’s a simple concept – and it’s never been done before. It’s called Coffee with a Cop.
A cup of coffee is a common bond for most of us and it's almost always shared in the same language.
But that’s usually not the case for English speaking police officers meet those who only speak Spanish.
Carlos Gutierrez, Deputy Sheriff with El Paso County Sheriff’s Office says one of their concerns is reaching out to Latinos, “What we are trying to portray to the community is that it’s not just us the Hispanic officers trying to approach and get closer to the Hispanic community. it’s also those officers who are native; who were born in Colorado Springs in the state of Colorado are very very interested in learning from the Hispanic Community.”
The goal is to change their mindset; cops vs. immigrants.
Colorado Springs Police Officer Bernie Bañuelos says their duty is to protect, “Everyone in this city in Colorado Springs is part of our community and we are here to protect and serve those”
Veronica Gomez has lived in the springs for 8 years and is terrified of officers because she had a bad experience and was threatened with deportation.
“He told me my license was useless, I also showed him my Mexican ID and he told me it was useless again. Then he told me since I had my kids in the back seat he wasn’t going to arrest me and have me immediately taken to Mexico.”
Deputy Gutierrez cannot stress enough local law enforcement isn’t immigration,. “We are not immigration, we are not here to deport or detain anyone based solely on on immigration status. However, if you commit a crime and you end up going to jail because you committed a crime then we do notify immigration on that aspect.”
Some were anxious to voice their concerns since in their countries authorities are known to be corrupt.
For that reason, it’s hoped programs like this can take away that fear.
“It’s important for people to educate themselves to know their local agencies. Know some of their officers to learn the processes that we have and know that if their educated about our departments they know they have rights.
Veronica Gomes says she now feels more at peace, “I had never attended a coffee with a cop but today that I came and know what there more tranquility in me.”
The concept of calling 911 took many by surprise but for now they feel some peace of mind.
The first, ‘Coffee with A Cop’ brought more than 50 Hispanic community members together. That was more than expected.