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Public, police mingle over coffee
• Separate Ceres events allow police to meet the public over coffee
Chief Rick Collins coffee
Shelia and Lee Brandt of Ceres enjoyed breakfast at Sam’s Cafe last Wednesday and it happened to be “Coffee with a Cop” so Ceres Police Captain Pat Crane served them coffee. Chief of Police Rick Collins chatted with Shelia during the event. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Sam’s Café was packed Wednesday morning with a mix of the public with Ceres Police officers and brass having “Coffee with a Cop.”

The event fell on the “National Coffee with a Cop Day.” The Coffee with a Cop program is designed to foster closer ties between community members and police, ask questions, share concerns, learn more about Ceres Police Department’s work in Ceres neighborhoods, and get to know officers.

Desirae Nunez brought young son Jozy because he’s interested in police officers and has several toy police cars he plays with at home.

“I wanted to give him a close up perspective of police officers,” said Desirae.

The shy little boy turned giddy when Ceres Police Chief Rick Collins snuck up behind him and waited for him to notice. Jozy could hardly contain himself.

“Talking with a shy toddler and seeing him open up, crack a smile, then proceed to show off his public safety themed shoes is a standout moment I’ll remember for a long time,” the chief said.

Captain Pat Crane said he was pleased with the turnout of both events.

“I always enjoy interacting with the community,” said Crane. “There were several good conversations had with Ceres residents. Everyone appeared to enjoy themselves.”

Greg Pino, a cousin of the late Ceres Police Sgt. Howard Stevenson, dropped by with his family in support of officers.

“I try to make it to all the events I can,” said Pino. “Community involvement is so important these days. We don’t want his memory to fade away and people tend to forget.”

On the night of Jan. 9, 2005, Stevenson was killed responding to a call of a man with a gun. Andres Raya, an AWOL Marine from Ceres and who had gang affiliations also shot and seriously injured Officer Sam Ryno in the attack outside of George’s Liquors. Raya fatally shot Stevenson, 39, and was later killed by police as he charged them down a nearby alley.

At one point Crane was coaxed into doing the job of waitresses, when a coffee pot was placed in his hands while talking to former code enforcement officer Alfred Negrete. Crane was a good sport and went from table to table to pour java, including Supervisor Jim DeMartini who was busy chatting to Councilman Channce Condit and the next table over where Lee and Shelia Brandt were conversing with an officer.

“From a personal perspective, it was amazing to see our officers engage with the customers in genuine conversation,” said Chief Collins. “Seeing Captain Crane and Officer Nieuwenhuis serve coffee showed they fully embraced the importance of community engagement.”

A second Coffee with a Cop was held the next morning at the Starbucks at Hatch and Herndon near Highway 99.

“We had a great turn out at both events,” said Ceres Police Lt. Chris Perry. “Each event provided an opportunity for our officers, firefighters, and other city staff to include council members and the city manager to engage in dialogue with many of our community members on a personal level.  We got the opportunity to interact with some small children, high school students, parents, employees and some people who were just passing through.”

Perry said both businesses which hosted “went above and beyond expectations” with decorations, and providing free coffee, tea, pastries, and donuts.

“We are very grateful for our amazing community members and look forward to more ‘Coffee with a Cop’ events in the future,” he added. 

Chris Perry
Ceres Police Lt. Chris Perry enjoys conversation and coffee with Sam's Cafe patrons. - photo by Jeff Benziger