Mr. President-Elect, Please Spare The Office Of Community Policing

President Elect Trump,

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You will be the president of the United States in just a few hours and you have a monumental task ahead of you. We are a country divided, with so many issues that affect so many people in our great nation that you must now deal with. I am just a police sergeant in a small California community and you don’t know I even exist. I wanted to reach out and tell you about the ramifications and the impact to so many police officers around the United States if you go through with a decision that you supposedly have made. I read an article published today in “The Hill” that was written by Alexander Bolton about upcoming government spending cuts. The article stated that you intend to eliminate the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) which is part of the Department of Justice.

I want to tell you a bit about the COPS Office, because it’s a small office that you may never had even heard of; they do really good work and help cops like me do our jobs. The COPS office is directly responsible for helping and enabling my police department to create an amazing community policing program called Coffee With a Cop. The Coffee With a Cop program has allowed officers around the United States to have positive, barrier-free contacts with community members. It has resulted in officers and community members getting to know officers in a way that has rebuilt trust that was long lost. Coffee With a Cop is now in 13 countries and four languages and has positively impacted police-community relationships around the world. The COPS Office funded another amazing program in Houston,Texas called TAPS (Teens and Police Services). This wonderful program has created lasting bonds between teens in underserved areas and the police that work on those communities.

The COPS Office is the only part of the federal government that is exclusively devoted to helping officers do the job as safely and effectively as they can. COPS Office also works hard to educate communities about the difficult job that police officers have. The COPS Office has been in the forefront of pushing out “tactical medicine” to agencies nationwide which has saved countless lives. They fund and study “line of duty deaths” as well as the critical issue of officer suicide and how we can educate and help prevent such tragedies in the future. The COPS Office is supporting the “National Blue Alert” program to rapidly get information about cop killers out to the media and public to aid in the apprehension of suspects.

I had the pleasure of serving as a fellow last year at the COPS Office. I can tell you firsthand that the people employed there are the smartest, most dedicated people I have ever dealt with. They are forward thinkers, caring and compassionate people who believe in the mission of community policing and the fact that we can affect change and increase public trust in law enforcement at a time when it has never been more important. The people at the COPS Office don’t just talk, they do.

Mr. President-elect I am telling you, the Office of Community Policing is a vital tool that police departments and officers in America need now more than ever. Police-community engagement is just as important as enforcement. Please don’t tie one hand behind our backs. Give us all the tools we need to stay safe and do our jobs. You promised to support us, so please support us and spare the Office of Community Policing, because the benefits to police far outweigh any minuscule savings from eliminating it.

You have had great support from law enforcement during the campaign, you promised to support police officers and help them do the difficult jobs they have. You said you would give them the tools that were needed to succeed. I, Sergeant Chris Cognac, am asking you to do just that.

2016, You Sucked! Here Is A Story Of Love And Inspiration For 2017

Chief David Westrick, Hollister California Police at “turning wheels for kids” bike building event

Chief David Westrick, Hollister California Police at “turning wheels for kids” bike building event

As 2016 comes to a close, I say “good riddance” to a lousy year. I can’t remember a time in my 49 years on earth when people hated each other so much. Where has all the joy and happiness gone in life? Everyone is just so dammed angry at everything! What do we blame, social media, politics, religion? If we want to blame someone or something, lets place the blame where it should be, with ourselves. We allowed 2016 to get to us, it enraged us and made many of us say and do things we would never have considered in 2015. Friends are no longer friends because of the election, we now look for reasons not to like someone instead of looking to see the joy in an individual even though they may be “different” in belief. We all seem to be moving towards the “Dark Side of the Force.”

It’s time to come to the light, to get inspired and to make change, however small in the “space” that you control in the world. I am going to some post stories of and about people who do just that, love and make positive change in the world around them. Maybe, just maybe some of them will inspire you to make a much needed change in 2017. I want you to remember this, we can all change the world, trust me, I have done it and so can you. My friend Hollister Police Chief David Westrick has some words below that might inspire you to make a difference .

Chris Cognac 

Is Loving Your Fellow Man Still a Thing?

I see hate, despair, evil and intolerance each and every day. I have lived, worked and survived (some may say even flourished) in this environment over 26 years. Exposure to all of that can forge a bitter, depressed and angry person.

Long ago, I made the conscious decision to not let any of that change me or affect me in a negative way. I chose not to hate, but to instead be tolerant, be happy and be positive. I chose to love my fellow humans (and animals) and everything this great world has to offer. I chose to be an example of love as much as I can in life. As anyone knows, love is something that can be easily transferred to others, with very little effort. Love is a choice.

Love is an important concept for us. Love is an emotion, it’s a verb, and it can be a noun and can describe so many different shades of our lives. For me, it’s a choice. I choose to love, rather than hate. In my world, love/tolerance always wins.

Take the example from my work the other day. Four years ago I found out there was a need for food and warm clothing for a local migrant family. I learned they had two small children. It was the beginning of fall and I knew it would be getting cold at night. I turned to social media and quickly organized an effort for food and clothing. I quickly realized that this family also had no furniture, pots & pans or dinnerware. I again went to social media and organized assistance. My little cadre of social media friends and a few fellow employees delivered food, clothing, and bicycles for the kids, pots & pans, dinner and $200 in gift cards for a local grocery store right in time for the holidays. We helped this little family and tears of joy flowed from our group and this little family.

It got me thinking about needing to be more proactive with the needs of our community. After all there could be many more families that have needs. In thinking about it, I realized I needed to focus my efforts on the kids of our community. There was a local food bank that could help with food and there was a local Salvation Army that could help with clothing. There wasn’t a group though, that was helping with kid’s holiday gifts and other needs. I had something to focus on! I have long held a belief that once a child has the opportunity to fall in love with something; be it sports, reading, music or maybe even riding a bicycle, that they will have currency in life that they can use to gain friends, experience and have a destination and dreams as they grow up.

Again leading with the concept of love and being an example of that I was able to connect with like-minded community folks. This lead me to an organization called Turning Wheels 4 Kids turningwheelsforkids.org. I wrote a grant request and Turning Wheels provided 70 bicycle’s and helmets, friends and fellow employees purchased about 10 more bicycles and helmets. My fellow employees and I volunteered our time and found local deserving and in need children in our area through a nomination process and delivered the bicycles right before the holidays. Again tears of joy by those that volunteered and those receiving. Love is easily transferred with very little effort.

My fellow employees have continued to volunteer and continued our relationship with Turning Wheels 4 Kids. As each year passes, love for one another grows in our community. We get as much out of our experience with this project as the kids receiving the bicycles, maybe even more. Our little group does many other things in our community as we have diversified our efforts to help our children in need, but that is another story, for another day.

Remember, love is something that can be easily transferred to others, with very little effort. Love is after all, a choice.

Go out and lead by example. Do something good, even when somebody isn’t watching you or posting about it on social media. Most of all tell and show people, every day, how much they mean to you and how much you love them, it might be something they need to see and hear that day.

Dave Westrick, fellow human being

On the writer - David Westrick is the Chief of Police in the Northern California City of Hollister. He is a 26 year law enforcement veteran. His blog can be found at mychiefthoughts.com. He can be found on Twitter at @chiefwestrick and on facebook.com/chiefwestrick

 

Policing In America: Where Do We Go From Here?

This weekend there seemed to be even more violence against police officers than we has become the “usual” or “normal” amount. This Saturday a young officer from my small police department was shot and injured. It just seemed to continue with the assassination of an officer in San Antonio and the ambushing of other officers in Florida and Missouri. It just continued all weekend. I am sick and tired of wearing this black band around my badge. I am very busy with work at the moment and wanted to write a posting, but just don’t have the time. I asked one of the best most decent human beings I know for his thoughts so I could share them. Billy Bolin, is a community cop, a champion of the “little guy” and a great friend...these are his thoughts on what is going on right now.

Chris Cognac

Bill Bolin, Chief of Police, Evansville Indiana

Bill Bolin, Chief of Police, Evansville Indiana

 

Where do we go from here?

Bill Bolin, Chief of Police, Evansville Indiana

As I watched the morning news today, all I could think was, “Where do we go from here?” Four officers shot across our country yesterday, two of them in ambush style shootings — just because they wear a uniform. Another officer was shot this weekend at a department where I have good friends. Is this a short-lived epidemic or is this just the beginning of a new normal for America?

When I arrived at work this morning, I had to speak with some officers about a toy drive we have coming up in a few weeks that has provided toys to local hospitals for the past seven years. I went back to our detective office and ran into a detective sergeant, who was on vacation, but was here making preparations for the annual FOP Christmas Party, which will host over one hundred disadvantaged children in a couple weeks and provide them each with several presents. I stopped in another sergeant’s office who was working on rooming lists for a program the department has which will be sending 48 kids from economically depressed areas to Walt Disney World in January. Then I went to meet several of our officers who were helping deliver food baskets for a local organization called The Dream Center. Tomorrow, several of our staff will be volunteering at The Evansville Rescue Mission, which is a local homeless shelter.

All of these officers, who are doing terrific things, could be targeted because of the uniform they wear. When Officer Gray is delivering food baskets, she could be a target. When Sgt. Hildebrandt is going to buy toys for a kids Christmas Party, he could be a target. When officers are working at the homeless shelter tomorrow, they could be targets. Where do we go from here?

It’s easy, we can continue to blame it on President Obama, President-Elect Trump, the media or whoever your personal boogey man is, but the bottom line is change starts at home. What are your personal beliefs towards people of different races? What are your personal beliefs on people of different religions? What are your beliefs on the police? What are you teaching your kids (through words and deeds)? It all comes down to respect and working with one another. When all of us try this, we all will be better off.

Can’t We All Just Stand ‘United’ For Two Minutes

Torrance Destroyers Goalie Gabe Cognac Photo: Art Wong

Torrance Destroyers Goalie Gabe Cognac
Photo: Art Wong

There is an old saying “united we stand, divided we fall.” I thought about that last Saturday as I watched my son Gabriel’s high school ice hockey game. Like almost every sporting event in the U.S., the national anthem is played before the game starts.

In this game, a man walked out onto the ice holding a microphone to sing the national anthem . I looked around to see if there were any “protests” but there were none. Every single person in the stands got up out of the seats and stood in respect for our country. Every player on the ice, stood at the blue line or in the goal and faced the flag of our great nation.

I looked at the faces around me and the faces of the players on our team. Our team, the Torrance Destroyers are a reflection of America and what makes it great, it’s diversity. Asian, Hispanic, African American, Armenian and Caucasian. Catholic, Baptist, Jewish, it didn’t matter who they are or where they were from because at that moment they were reminded and acknowledged that they were Americans.

Our nation is so divided, so polarized and so quick to blame others and so quick to hate. We seem to have forgotten what its like to be “united” and stand together to celebrate what makes our nation so great.

These kids and all the parents in the crowd all stood united for 120 seconds. They all stood as one, acknowledging that despite our differences , we are a great nation. I ask you America, can’t we all just stand together ,put aside our hate and be united for just 2 minutes.

We still have a lot of work to do as a nation, but if we can all just stand together and united for 2 minutes, then we have hope that we can stand strong as a nation in spite of our differences. So just give me 2 minutes America, then you can go back to hating each other for the rest of the 1438 minutes of each day.

Colin Kaepernick, let’s have Coffee with a Cop!

Hey Colin,

There has been so much controversy over your refusal to stand during the national anthem that I feel it is time to talk about it. Maybe I can offer you a voice to be heard on the issues and problems you feel are the root cause of your protest. You say that you are sitting for injustice (something people usually “stand up” against.) While I think it’s a slap in the face to myself and every other veteran who has put themselves in harm’s way to preserve that very freedom, it is your right to do so and that right is what make’s America great.

I am a Police Officer and have been one for 25 years. My profession is a noble and often very difficult one. We are quickly criticized and second guessed by people who don’t really know what our job is about. It would be like me criticizing your football skills when I don’t really know what I am talking about, and we all know people would NEVER critique or second guess an NFL player unless they themselves played in the NFL.

Because you are a multi-millionaire elite athlete with your own set of unique problems, myself and my fellow police officers will never ever know the struggles that you face on a daily basis. You in turn, will never know the issues that we face on a daily basis. You have to make split second decisions on who to throw the ball to on the field, we too have to make split second decisions everyday. The thing is, if you make a bad decision or a bad pass, you lose a few yards or maybe even suffer an interception. If we make a wrong decision, lives change, people get hurt and people can die.

Both NFL athletes, as well as police officers, must have the confidence and training to make the right decision. Wow, I guess we actually do have something in common after all. You know what it’s like to be second guessed and every split second decision analyzed, just like we do!

You see Colin, I just found a little “common ground” between your job as an NFL Quarterback and what police officers face every day in America, and that brings me to my point. The police and the public need to sit down and get to know each other. We need to listen and learn from each others point of view.

There is a program that has been running since 2011 that does just that> It’s calledCoffee with a Cop and it has been bringing police and the community together over coffee and conversation. It’s simple because there are no agendas and no speeches, just a chance to get to know one another and find out how much we all have in common.

It’s easy Colin because national Coffee with a Cop day is on Friday, October 7th. It’s the morning after your home game against the Arizona Cardinals, so you will have that Friday off. You can just show up at any one of the Coffee with a Cop events near where you live and sit down with a police officer and talk. You may find out you have a lot in common, you also may disagree on some things too but that’s okay! The important thing is you will learn from each other, and that is what we need most in this country right now. Still not sure you want to go? Give this cute little animated video a watch to see what its all about, I will see you on October 7th at Coffee with a Cop.

What Cops Are Feeling Right Now

(Based on recent tragedies in Dallas and Baton Rouge) I reached out to my fellow police officers across the United States and asked them to tell me in their own words, what they wanted to say to Americans right now. This is what they said.


“My wife cries and asks me why I still go to a job where I am vilified and threatened. She tells me that people have become more hateful; that it isn’t the same job that I signed up for seven years ago. I think of my two-year-old son. It is hard to find the words to answer her, harder still to find a justification for the “why”. The cliché answers come to mind: “It’s all I have ever wanted to do,” or “I love catching bad guys,” and even the old “I want to help people.” Those answers aren’t good enough for her. Honestly, they aren’t good enough for me either. The only meaningful answer I have left is: “If not me, then who?” Today, it is the only answer I have. Today, it is the only reason I still put on a uniform. Today, I have brothers and sisters in uniform all over the country feeling the same despair that I feel as I wrap a black band around my badge. Today, I have people depending on me. Today... it has to be enough.” 

Officer Joshua Madsen, Pasco (WA) Police Department 7 years’ experience 


“I was privileged to represent my agency last week in Dallas. While I was there, I met people of every race and from many diverse backgrounds. As I had the opportunity to speak with many people from Dallas, the discussions had one common theme. They were hurting as well and they wanted everyone in law enforcement to know that they cared and appreciated our efforts. More than one person began to shed tears as they spoke to me. As tough as things have been recently, I was reminded that deep down, the majority of Americans still respect and care about law enforcement. And for me, that is enough to keep on going.” 

Sgt William Vollberg, Pittsburgh (PA) Police Department, 23 years’ experience


“It breaks my heart to see Americans taking to the streets to execute police officers in the name of whatever cause they believe or support. The belief that street justice, or taking the law into one’s own hand, fixes societal grievances does not work. While Honolulu is unique in that we are a little more than 2,500 miles from the California coast, we are not exempt from similar heinous acts as our Brothers and Sisters in Blue from Baton Rouge and Dallas. My heart hurts for the families of those officers who left to serve their community and did not return home. Yet, I will continue to wear my uniform with pride and provide the people of Honolulu with the best police service I can offer.”

Officer Jason Boquer-Wintjen, Honolulu (HI) Police Department, 13 years’ experience


“Frustration, uncertainty, disgust and disbelief. These emotions sum up the surreal atmosphere of what it’s like on the road right now. We are still going to work day in and day out without question, because whether you hate us or love us, we’re still rolling if you call.”

Sgt Chris Port, Hawthorne (CA) Police Department, 15 years’ experience


“The people I work with have become more than friends, they are my family. As I walk into headquarters, the hallways have become quiet, the jokes and laughter are gone, and the smiles on faces seem to have disappeared. My family is hurting, our hearts ache, and we are filled with anger because our brothers and sisters across the country keep getting killed simply for the uniform they wear. I know we are not alone in this fight. The outpour of support and generosity from our community has been overwhelming. The simple reminders that we are not alone help us keep going, because in this family no one fights alone.”

Officer Jacklyn Smith, Evansville (IN) Police Department, 2 years’ experience


“Being a Police Officer is a thankless job. We wake up every day/night, put on the badge and head into the abyss. We patrol the streets knowing that all we have is our wits, our training and equipment, and our fellow Officers to keep us safe. We deal with the most heinous aspects of society without flinching. We witness unimaginable things that keep us awake when we should sleep. We learn to manage and re-direct our fear into action in split-second decisions... and we are flawed humans, no doubt, but we leave it all out on the streets. My God, being a Police Officer is a thankless job... but I wouldn’t have it any other way... because it takes a quiet professional to put on this badge and hit the streets hard, just knowing that we serve something greater than ourselves. We stand our post on that thin blue line, between chaos and order.”

Officer Juan Sanchez, Sarasota (FL) Police Department, 16 years’ experience


“It’s so sad to see all the hate in this world towards police officers. When I, just like any other police officer across America, took an oath to serve and protect, we did so because this is what we love doing. Regardless of those that want to make police look bad and the people that want to harm us, I will continue doing what I love most. I will continue to serve and protect the citizens of Pooler as well as anyone else from across America, who I may meet. We will overcome this day in time and I want to thank each of you across America who continues to believe in us and for your continued support for law enforcement. Please continue to pray for the families of the recent fallen officers from Baton Rouge and Dallas. God bless! “

Corporal Tripp Davis, Pooler (GA) Police Department, 16 years’ experience


“Our challenges are ever changing, but our cause is never lost. Every day I leave my house, make the drive to my headquarters, put on my uniform, I can’t help but contemplate if I’ll be the next example. The next example of a young patrolman (or woman) forced into martyrdom. The next result of extremism. The next target in a blue uniform. As I walk into roll call, it passes. It passes when I allow myself to remember. When I remember to uphold the oath I took three years ago. When I remember my predecessors who dedicated their lives to giving their communities hope. I allow myself to remember how badly I wanted to become that beacon of hope. I remember, I am one of thousands who are fully aware of the risk, the public perception and the personal sacrifice that comes with this calling. One of thousands standing up for what is just; in a turbulent national society where stigmas and misconceptions are the roots of our challenges.

I am forever grateful for the support I receive on a daily basis. Grateful for the citizen who approaches me, just to give thanks. Grateful for the children who stare at me in awe; as if they just met Superman. Grateful to be the protector of a town that stands behind me, unconditionally.”

Officer Alex Testani, Greenwich (CT) Police Department , 3 years’ experience


“It does not matter how many of my brothers or sisters are murdered, we will win in the long run. Not by the use of violence, but solely on the fact that our purpose is of a higher level. We protect people who cannot protect themselves. They cowardly hunt the protectors that keep the evil at bay. Every day I put on my uniform and I know I will help make someone’s life better. They can never take that away from me, no matter how many times they break my heart by using violence against us. If you call for help, we will be there for you no matter the color of your skin, your sexual preference, or your political affiliation.”

Officer Zachary Caron, Brewer (ME) Police Department, 2 years’ experience


How A Slobbering 80-Pound Pit Bull Changed My Life Forever

Last year, my oldest son Matthew had gone off to college, and I was commuting between DC and LA. Things at home we not as “busy” as they used to be. We still had our 15-year-old Gabriel with us, but we missed the banter between brothers that used to fill the house. It just wasn’t the same anymore.

Martha had a crazy idea: “Let’s go the shelter and get a dog,” she told me. I was not exactly thrilled with the idea but agreed. I mean what better way to replace a kid that has gone off to college then to get a dog, right? It had to be the “right dog”; I didn’t want some yappy ankle biter or some vicious pit bull. I have had many an encounter with pit bull’s in dark back yards during my time on the streets.

We went to the Carson, California Animal Shelter. It’s a high kill facility due to the sheer number of dogs that are brought into the shelter. We wanted to find a dog and save a life at the same time. We walked in, and it seemed like every dog was a pit bull. I was dead set against taking one home, because I knew they were a vicious breed, and I was not going to let one of those animals into my home.

While I walked along the rows and rows of cold metal cages, a dog caught my eye. He was scared, emaciated and looked like he had given up on life.

There was only one problem: He was a pit bull.

He looked at me with big beautiful eyes. I could see into his soul. I could feel how scared he was and that he just wanted it to end. I could not just walk away — my heart would not let me. I had to at least go over and look at him.

I approached his cage. He did not move. He did not bark. He just sat there with his big head resting against the metal cage. I stuck my finger though the hole in the cage and scratched him on the head. I expected him to growl or flinch, but he did not. He closed his eyes and accepted all the love that my one finger could give him. I knew that this dog had never felt love before. I think he was enjoying every bit of the love I could give him, savoring it all until his time came to leave the earth.

Tears began to stream down my face (I am crying right now as I write this) because I felt everything that this poor creature was feeling right then. He just wanted to be loved; he just wanted a home and a family.

I called my wife Martha and son Gabriel over and told them, “I want to see if this is the dog for us.” We arranged for a little private time with the dog. He was shaking as the shelter workers brought him out of his cage. Maybe he was thinking that his time had come. We spent time with him. He was so scared that he didn’t move. He didn’t bark or growl. It was his eyes that told us what we needed to do, so we took a chance on this pit bull and said, “We want him.”

He had to stay at the shelter a few more days to get neutered, so they took him back to his cold metal cage. I felt so bad that he was not able to let him know that he now had a family. We visited him every day in the shelter until we could take him home. We wanted him to know love, to know affection and that he was important.

It’s been a year since we took Carson home (we named him after the shelter) and our lives have been changed forever. He has gained lots of weight from snacks and treats and his ribs no longer show. He has a new “little brother” in Carter, the scrappy white terrier we adopted from the shelter to be his friend.

Carson’s favorite thing to do is to leap up in the air onto our bed in the morning and give us kisses with his giant pit bull tongue. He is always there to greet us when we come home with a huge smile and wagging tail. We never eat alone, because Carson is always nearby, drooling all over the floor hoping for some “nummy nummies.”

Our lives are so much better because of this giant, 80-lb. pit bull. He has shown us more love than any living creature on earth ever has before. I love looking into his big brown eyes as his giant tongue slides across my face. I know what’s in those eyes: It’s love, compassion and gratitude. Things I never thought that a pit bull was capable of.

Taking a chance on an 80-lb. pit bull was the best decision my family ever made. If you are looking for a great dog, maybe you can find a “Carson” of your own.

I Wanted to Quit, Until the Donuts Came

07/12/2016

Original article HERE

By Sgt Chris Cognac

I have been a cop almost 25 years; so much has changed since I started doing this job. Police officers have learned to do things so much better: We connect, we engage, we support the communities we serve. Today we deal with complex issues and things that we never could have imagined in 1992.

It’s not all about “enforcement” and “cops and robbers” anymore, it’s about so much more. 

With the advent of technology, I am able to engage and to be there for my community like never before. Local moms, business owners and students have my cell phone number and know I am just a text message away. I mentor and encourage them, I help them find jobs and to be able to play sports. They, in turn, help me to make my community a better place. We take “selfies,” follow each other on Instagram. Together we make a huge difference in the world.

I love my community; this is the best job in the world because I get to make an impact in people’s lives.

Do some people hate me? Yes, they have called me pig, racist, and have told me they wished I would die. I am not going to lie — those words hurt, although I try not to show it. Actually, I use that hatred to focus on doing good things. 

You know what the highlight of my career is at the moment? It’s not some big arrest or car chase; it’s getting soccer fields built at one of our parks so the neighborhood kids have a safe place to play. I never imagined I would be doing these things as a cop, but here I am doing them and I believed in my community.

Until Dallas.

I came home from a great day at work on Thursday evening, turned on the news and saw what was happening. It was like someone punched me in the stomach. Then I made the mistake of looking at social media and all I saw was hate from both sides.

I could not believe what was going on. Everything that I and so many other cops had worked so hard to achieve was being destroyed. Was anything I ever did worth it? Why was this happening, why does everybody have so much hate! It was hurting me so much to see this happening. Why could I not stop the pain I felt? I was watching my country and community go down the drain.

I gave up, I stopped caring and you know what? It didn’t hurt as badly anymore. I started to plan how I could just work my shift while disconnecting myself from everyone in the community. I am eligible to retire in a little over a year. I could just go to work, handle my calls and then go home, not worrying about anyone other than myself and other officers until that time came.

I came into work Monday morning still numb from what was going on. The station was somber, like I had never seen it before. I had retreated to the solitude of my desk when I got a message from the Captain telling me to come to the break room.

I walked into the break room and was confronted with a cop’s dream, or nightmare, depending on how you look at it. There were dozens and dozens of donuts — donuts in boxes stacked high on the counter as far as the eye could see.

To the side of the mountain of donuts stood a retired teacher along with a mother and her two kids. They told me that they remember when we went to their school in 2012 and they wanted to do something that would let us all know that we are important and we are special. So, they brought us more donuts than we could ever eat, and made special “police” plates on which to eat them. 

I tried to look cool as I sat eating my donut with them; I hid the tears that were slowly streaming from my eyes.

They had no idea that what they had just done had given me the hope I needed to get through all of this madness. To them, it was just some donuts, but to me it was the best donut I had ever eaten, because that donut meant that someone did care about me and cared about all of us. 

They are the reason I put on this badge, they are the reason I care.

I finished my donut, thanked them and left, because I am a police officer, and I still have work to do!

Chris Cognac is a Sergeant with the Hawthorne Police Department in Los Angeles County California. He is the co-creator of the nationally recognized Coffee with a Cop community policing program and works closely with police around the world to create better police-community relationships. A former Fellow with the Office of Community Policing in Washington DC, He believes in paying it forward, the power of positive thinking and that one Cop can change the world.

Follow Chris Cognac on Twitter: www.twitter.com/chriscognac

From the Capitol to the land of Lobster

I hit the ground running when I got back to DC and was back in Baltimore on Monday. It was my first time back since the riots and I saw the mall and burned out stores, but none of the crowds or hostilities that we all saw on TV. I think the people are ready to work on things and make Baltimore the great community that is should be. 

It was Police Week in DC and there were officers from all over the world coming in to celebrate and honor those who have fallen in the line of duty. One of the first big events is the arrival of hundreds of officers who rode in the "unity ride" . Officer Alarcon from Gardena PD was riding in it and had nobody to meet him. I left the office and took the train over to the National Police Memorial to cheer him on when he arrived. There were hundreds of families , kids holding up signs and everyone cheering each other on as the riders arrived from a journey of several hundred miles. I high-fived some riders and clapped until my hands hurt, all the while feeling so out of place sweating in my dark grey suit. Raul arrived and greeted me with a big sweaty hug. He said he rode alone at first, but this job is about brother and sisterhood, so the guys from Oregon adopted him and he rode with them to which he was grateful . It's an amazing site to see and I am glad I came down to greet them.

The Candlelight vigil was next with what must have been 10,000 plus officers in attendance, from all over the world, all wearing uniforms of various colors and representing those nations. I saw a large formation of officers in white shirts and asked them where they were from.  Aruba they said! So funny because many many years ago Detective Chaffin and I vacationed in Aruba with our families and visited the Aruba police academy!

The memorial service at the capitol building is always a huge deal, this year President Obama was set to speak . I worked the event welcoming officers in the crowd and getting to know some people, in turn letting them know what the Office of Community Policing (COPS) is and what we do. The English "Bobbies" were a huge hit as always , dressed in those neat uniforms and helmets. I spoke with a few and they ended up being friends with Lt Siobhan Eliot from the London Metropolitan Police . She is a good friend to all of us at Hawthorne Police and showed myself and a few HPD Officers aronnd London during our visit, 

I am currently in Bangor Maine waiting to teach Coffee with a Cop at the Brewer Maine Police Dept. I could not fly home to L.A. and then fly to Maine the next day since that's about 9000 miles. I decided to just go from DC and make the best of it. I rented a car and drove to Bar Harbor Maine with the mission of eating as many lobsters as I could. Maine is beautiful and the 90 mile drive from my hotel was scenic and peaceful . I was determined to eat a real lobster roll, not some tourist version so I wanted a "shack" . Well I found one I found a lobster shack in Trenton Maine on the side of the road and went for it. OMG the lobster roll was delicious! I have had them in L.A., but its not the same I guess. I think it would be like getting Mexican food in Maine...yea, its "Mexican food"....but we all know, it's not "really" Mexican food...

Full from my lobster roll I drove into Bar Harbor and drove through Acadia National Park. The leaves were so pretty and there was a chill in the air, it also smelled much saltier then the beach at home. Also Maine does not have sand beaches like we do...its all rocky, but really neat. I took some great photos which I will post and enjoyed the day before heading back to my lonely airport hotel. I miss everyone at home a lot, but I am proud of the fact that Hawthorne PD is able to make such a huge impact around the country with Coffee with a Cop. I think I am safe in saying it is now the largest, most successful community policing program in the WORLD. 

Well everyone, I hope you are enjoying following my adventures...its been fun taking the pics and sharing them you all! 

Cheers, 
Sgt Chris Cognac   

Chicken Soup

I was pretty excited to hit the "big time" and get invited to sit in on the White House panel on sexual assault and women's issues this week to be held at "The White House".  I went to work at the COPS Office Wednesday ready to go.   I had my nice grey suit on and was ready to dive in head first about an issue to which I am very passionate.

Well, as luck would have it, the meeting was cancelled !!! I was so bummed, what was everyone going think now that I was not going be a White House "insider" lol! So my friend at the COPS Office Deborah had gotten tickets to a special event at the Smithsonian to be held that evening. It was called "What the Cluck"...yes, What the Cluck! It was a symposium and Q/A about ....Chickens!

So we took the metro after work (still wearing my grey power suit) to the American History Museum and ended up listening to a great lecture and Q/A about Chickens and Egg's (they did not tell us which came first.) The evening of chicken talk came to a fitting end with some great food (chicken) and local craft beers and I got to see a real live chicken coop, that had been assembled inside the museum itself! There was a live Bluegrass band (very fitting) and it ended up just being a really neat evening. They have these nighttime events once a month, and next month is SUSHI!!!!

So, gotta love DC, my day started off headed to the White House, but I ended up in the chicken coup!

Reflection

Sunday March 15th

It was not raining today so I got out to explore and take some photos . I am an Army veteran and am very proud to have served with some amazing men in the 101st Airborne Div. 

I wanted to get some time alone to walk around and reflect on what service to country means. Arlington National Cemetery is an amazing reminder of that sacrifice . I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them and reflecting on what it means to be a soldier . 

My meeting at the "Pentagon"

March 11th 

My meeting at the "Pentagon"

I received an e mail Monday and it said there was a big meeting in the Pentagon and that I would be escorted to where the meeting was to take place. YES!!! I was gonna be the man, what would the folks back at HPD think when I told them "oh yea, had a meeting at the Pentagon today, no biggie." Well, time for the meeting came and I thought it was strange that I was still in the DOJ building. So someone came to show me to the meeting and it was in "The Pentagon" alright....the corner meeting room in my building is named "The Pentagon", like Homer Simpson would say "Doh!"

Anyway, we are so busy, it's awesome to be working on national issues like Ferguson and being able to give opinions and expertise based on things we have learned and pioneered in Hawthorne. I am learning a lot, like there is an acronym for EVERYTHING in the Federal Government like SME (subject matter expert), and CRI (Collaborative Reform Initiative) which you will hear about more during the time I am away. 

I decided to take a nice walk in the crisp cool Virginia air when I got "home", I walked to the cool rotating restaurant at the top of the Double Tree Crystal City hotel and snapped a photo. I am recommend to anyone in the DC area to go and have a drink or dinner, its the best view in town! I stayed there when I was filming my DC episode of the Food Network show I used to host. 

Well, off to bed, tomorrow is a new day, goodnight Hawthorne !   

First Day at Work

Monday March 9th

Up early for my first "commute" via the Metro line, I managed to get to the office early, the problem was...the people I needed to meet were not as early as I was, so I froze in the snow outside for 30 min. I was welcomed to the COPS Office and was pretty excited to learn that Hawthorne has already made an impact as a community policing leader with some pretty innovative and forward thinking programs. I had not been at the office for more than an hour when I found myself sitting in a meeting regarding Ferguson Mo. Wow, I was pretty excited to be thrown right into the fire and to have some input into things of such importance. 

I had to take a shuttle across DC to the main Dept of Justice to get an I.D. that would get me past the impressive security at the 2 Constitution building . It was impressive to say the least, with beautiful art on the walls, and i even got to look at "The great hall" where all the big press events are held. I also have to say, that the cafeteria makes a mean chicken salad sandwich!

I was really impressed with all the smart minds working at the COPS Office, it seems like everyone has a PhD except me! When the day ended it was time to commute home, wow, they cram people in the trains like sardines ! It really gives me perspective over the "freeway commute in the cocoon of your car" thing that we all do in L.A. I made it back to my little room and cooked "chicken for one". I miss my family and friends and all of you in Hawthorne, but this is a fantastic adventure and I wonder what tomorrow will bring!

Washington DC - Home For The Next Six Months

Friday March 6th 

I have kept this pretty close to the vest but for those of you who don't know, about a year ago the Office of Community Policing in Washington DC (COPS Office) , Dept of Justice put out a call for a newly created position of "Law Enforcement Fellow" , which is to be a serving police officer who is assigned to the office. I applied for this position and was chosen several months ago as the first ever fellow. I leave in the morning for DC where I will be spending 2 weeks a month until the end of Sept. working for the COPS office as a subject matter expert dealing with critical response, emerging issues in law enforcement and collaborative reform. I will truly have the ability to work on serious issues that affect US Law Enforcement and hopefully come up with some ideas that really make a difference in community and re establish public trust. This is without a doubt, the most important job I have ever had in my life. So, I will do my best to continue to make a difference in our community and now our nation. I would not be able to do this without the support of the command staff at Hawthorne Police and I thank them.

We have lot's of work to do as a nation and as a profession, it's time to get to work....

Saturday March 7th

Man that's a long plane ride! I made it to DC and as a bonus got an AMAZING photo out the window of the Lincoln memorial looking toward the Washington monument. I made it to my little hotel and didn't realize that where I am staying in Crystal City is all UNDERGROUND! Like all the stores and places are under the streets, it's pretty strange. I managed to get settled and had dinner, I ended up having a nice view from my room, and if I look hard enough I can see the Pentagon. I am gonna try and learn how to take the subway tomorrow , I am such an L.A.. guy, I have no idea how to take a subway of bus...as they say, nobody walks in L.A.!

Landing soon!

Landing soon!

View from my hotel

View from my hotel

Sunday March 8th. 

What is up with that time change...I lost 4 hours! Man it's just my luck I would come to the east coast on the day of the "spring ahead". So I tried valiantly to figure out how to take the trains...red line, orange line, silver, green, and every other color under the sun. I got frustrated and just got on a train and didn't care where it went. So eventually I pretty much figured it out.

My daily commute

My daily commute

I walked around DC reflecting on things, why I have come to this place, what it means to be a police officer and the issues that are in the forefront of our profession right now. I went to the police memorial and saw my two friends and colleagues names on the memorial wall. It was sobering to watch, I could see other people , many of whom I figured where Cops. Looking for names of loved ones who were lost.

My commute

My commute

Officer Garton and Sergeant Luna.  Reminder of why we do what we do.  

Officer Garton and Sergeant Luna.  Reminder of why we do what we do.  

I decided to walk and think, I ended up at the Smithsonian American history museum which was really neat. They have Julia Child's kitchen as an exhibit, so I checked that stuff out and took some neat photos.

Julia Child" kitchen

Julia Child" kitchen

Tomorrow , I have to get up bright and early and take the train into DC to the Dept of Justice building where this adventure awaits. I am excited to start and excited that our little city, will get to help make a positive impact on our nation. I already miss my family, but they understand that this is something that must be done. I start early in the morning, so wish me luck folks , and I will try to blog as much as I can...including food and sightseeing stuff and lots of photos.      

My new office!

My new office!

The Cop and the Motel Kid

This article was originally published on the website; Huffington Post

By Sergeant Chris Cognac

 

My name is Chris Cognac and I am a police officer in Hawthorne, California. I have "almost always" believed in the power of positive thinking, paying it forward and making a positive impact on the world around me.

I have been a police officer for 23 years. I have seen so much violence, so much sorrow on the streets and as a detective working sexual assaults and child abuse that I had built up walls to protect my soul. It became hard to "feel," hard to be happy when your world is a very dark place. So I created an alternate world for myself through food and writing. To make a long story short, I began the journey of the "Hungry Detective" so I could leave my demons in another place and through food and writing, be happy again.

I contacted the local newspaper, told them the food critic didn't know what he was talking about and never went to places where real people ate. Well next thing I knew, I was the new food columnist. It gave me joy to help small mom and pop places and give them exposure through writing. I worked hard, believed in being positive and the next thing I knew, I was judging Iron Chef America. Soon after the Food Network gave me my own show called the Hungry Detective. It was great; I travelled the country on my days off from the police dept. and filmed my show. It was what everyone dreamed of, right?

My world came crashing down about two years later when a little girl in pink pajamas died in my arms at work one day because I could not breathe life into her. By coincidence, two hours later the Food Network cancelled my TV show, the TV show that was my only outlet for happiness. It was then that I began a spiral into darkness. I was assigned to work undercover, grew a large beard and grew my hair out. I only dealt with drug dealers and dopers for two years. My world became a personal hell and I no longer believed in anything.

Focusing my energy into work, I tried to shut down the worst motel in the city; it was full of criminals, gangsters, drug dealers and prostitutes.

I finished my journey in undercover work and was assigned to community affairs. It was Christmas time and I wanted to do something "good" in order to try and feel again. So we went to that motel with some presents to give to any kids living there. I knocked on door "K" and little did I know that the girl who answered the door, the skinny girl in pajamas, would be the person who gave me my soul back.

The girl who answered the door is named Yanet Alvarez and she was 15 years old. She helped us to locate other kids and she helped translate English for the other Spanish speaking motel families. She was very articulate and well mannered, unlike the other occupants of the motel. I asked her to tell me her story. Yanet said that she had lived in that motel room with her four other family members for 13 years and that her mother cleaned the dirty, nasty drug paraphernalia covered rooms for three dollars a room. She told me that she was an honor student with a 4.3 GPA and walked two miles just to go to a better school. I had been to that motel hundreds of times; I was so jaded and skeptical that I found it impossible to believe that this young girl was for real. I asked her what she wanted for Christmas as I was going to go buy her a gift and then be "finished" with her and never see her again in order to preserve what little emotion I had left. She said something that just floored me: "I don't need anything, I am ok". Yanet had a complete and total absence of greed. It was something that I had never seen before, especially from a kid in her situation.

 

This girl, this "motel kid" intrigued me, so I told her to prove to me that she was indeed an honor student. Yanet showed up at the police station two hours later, with her school transcripts in hand, which indeed showed her having a 4.3 GPA. It was then that I decided to do something that cops are not supposed to do, something that always comes back to haunt them. I took down my protective wall, opened up my heart and told her that I would make sure she got the chances in life that she deserved. I was determined to make sure that this girl got to realize her dream of going to college. I dedicated my heart and soul to make sure this little girl, was the one child that the streets didn't eat alive. Yanet had worked so hard, in the worst situation and made the best in spite of insurmountable odds against her. I was determined she was going to "make it" in life and get the opportunities that all kids should have, not just the privileged or entitled.

Yanet would become my intern in the Community Affairs Unit at the Hawthorne Police Department for the next three years. She worked hard even though we could not pay her. I could always rely on Yanet to help me teach classes and engage the community at dozens of events over the years. The final time Yanet helped me teach a class at the police station, I sat on the side of the room, trying to hide my tears from the crowd of people she was speaking to because I was so proud of her. That the little girl from the motel had grown into an amazing and confident young woman.

I taught Yanet about the world outside of the motel and she taught me to how feel again, to be human and to believe that there is good in the world and people like her with amazing potential, even in places like that motel. Yanet gave me a gift; she gave me another soul, a second soul to replace the one that I had lost to the streets. I can never fully repay her for that.

That's our story, the story of how fate brought two people from totally opposite worlds together. It's a story of how a burnt out old cop was re-inspired to believe again and how a young girl's dreams of going to college are now being realized.

Note: Yanet is now a student at UC Berkeley with plans to go to medical school (which she will do). I am working hard to find a way to help fund her dream of becoming a doctor. LINK

 

Sergeant Chris Cognac is a 20-year veteran of the Hawthorne (California) Police Department. He is currently assigned to the Community Affairs Unit but has served in numerous capacities from uniform patrol, to sexual assault and crimes against children detective, to cooperative resource unit, to aviation bureau, to undercover narcotics supervisor. Cognac is a true believer in the ability of individual officers making a difference in the communities they serve. He uses his networking and communication skills as a force multiplier, putting people who want to help the community with those in need of an opportunity. Most recently, he has begun to take the simple concept of “Coffee with a Cop” nationwide. He has assisted officers and police departments across the country in implementing their own events that aim to build good communications and trust within those communities. Cognac is a graduate of the Delinquency Control Institute at the University of Southern California. In his spare time, he is a food and travel writer for magazines and newspapers and develops new food television concepts. He also hosted his own Food Network TV show, The Hungry Detective.  He can be reached by email here.