"Time flies when you're..."
2013 would prove to be a landmark year for the Community Affairs Unit of the Hawthorne Police Department. The year started with a fresh approach to integrating HPD into the community and turning “US” and “Them” into “We”. We looked at how we were doing things and how things could be done better and how we could build better relationships in the community, let residents see our officers as true neighborhood cops, like the ones on the street corner of yesteryear, where people knew each other’s names and faces .
In February Sergeant Wiley, Lieutenant Tomatani, and I embarked on a vacation/journey to Europe to visit police officer friends in Glasgow Scotland, London England and Paris France. The trip gave us a chance to see how police interact with citizens in those countries and how we could use what we have seen in order to do things better in Hawthorne. It gave us a feel of how the relationships between residents and police have a direct effect on crime and the overall feeling of public safety as they were different in each country we visited. The trip also reinforced the perspective that we are a more “global” society and what the police do and how they interact in other countries affects the relationships we have here in the U.S...
In May, Captain Kauffman, Detective Dixon and I began teaching the “Coffee with a Cop” class that we had developed in conjunction with the University of Illinois and the Dept of Justice/Office of Community Police. The class has been a huge hit, and we had a great chance to see how police officers interact with communities in different parts of the US. We have had a great chance to learn as well as teach and have taken back some great ideas that we will be implementing in 2014.
We learned about the “wheel of warrants” in Green Bay Wisconsin and the “ice cream trucks” in Boston. So far we have visited Alabama, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky and New Hampshire. If you look at the map on coffeewithacop.com you can see all the cities that have held events and know that it all started in Hawthorne. We also learned that officers pretty much face the same challenges around the world, no matter if you work in a big city or a small one.
Detective Dixon has been holding apartment owners and managers seminars at the station every three months. There has been some great networking and information sharing with regards to the unique issues that apartment owners/managers face.
We also presented the Path 360 anti-drug educational awareness program so schools, community groups and others throughout the year. It was a big hit and we appreciated the partnership with Drugfree.org to help us with the project.
PSO Lameka Bell and her K9 partner Scottie have made a massive impact in the community. Scottie is one of only two service/therapy dogs being used by police in the U.S. at this time. Scottie has allowed us to better communicate with children and others who might be “shy”. Scottie has helped crime victims to cope with loss, visited sick children and adults and represented HPD ‘s commitment to community.
The Hawthorne Police have continued to build on the excellent relationships with local professional sports teams. In October, we held our 3rd annual Halloween Safety Fair” in conjunction with the Los Angeles Kings NHL team where hundreds little ghosts and goblin’s came out to play games and street hockey in front of city hall. The Los Angeles Lakers and HPD hosted a turkey give away this thanksgiving where HPD Officers, Laker players and the Laker Girls gave away hundreds of turkeys, blankets and other items to families in need.
The National Hockey League Players Association and the Hawthorne Police Department forged a partnership to bring ice hockey to local children who might not be able to afford it and the Hawthorne Force was born. 24 kids ages 4-7 were given ice hockey equipment donated by the NHLPA under its “goals and dreams” program. I was able to secure two grants totaling $2000.00 from Wal Mart and the Hawthorne Parks and Rec Foundation to pay for 8 weeks of ice. The Hawthorne Force children have been working hard to learn how to skate and play. The coaches are all volunteer Hawthorne Police officers or Hawthorne residents and hockey players. In a fantastic commitment and partnership, 6 Hawthorne Police employees have kids on the team and are paying to play in order to help offset the costs associated with the program. It’s been a great project at bringing local parents, police employees and kids together as one! We are all so proud of the kids and can’t wait to cheer them on for the first game Jan 6th at 6:50 pm at the Skating Edge Ice Arena in Harbor City. In fact the team is being coached for the game by active NHL players!
I look back and it just blows me away to think about just how far we have come since this all started in 2011 when Detective John Dixon came up with the idea to have coffee with people in order to just talk to them. We have learned so much about community policing as a result of Coffee with a Cop. I have never been so proud to be a Hawthorne Police Officer. I am proud of Hawthorne, what we have achieved and in the direction we are headed as a city and I know there are great things in store for us all. For all of you who supported us throughout the years, I can now confidently say the city of Hawthorne is officially “On the Map”!
We look forward to a fantastic 2014 and to bringing pride to the fantastic people of Hawthorne. We will continue to make a global impact and be a leader in community policing. This is a great city with great people and we are showing the world that we are indeed the city of good neighbors!
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.