Sergeant Cognac’s Year in Review: 2014
2014 was a very busy year for the Community Affairs Unit as well as the rest of the officers and staff here at HPD. This was a year that the city of Hawthorne really blossomed as an emerging leader in innovative policing, communication and branding. We have worked hard to address the needs of the community, provide leadership and stability to youth as well as be here as a contact for individual community members. We have strived to be accessible much like the “cop on the corner” even as the technology quickly changes and communication methods move more and more to “social media”.
Hawthorne Force Youth Hockey:
What started out last year as a dream for a couple of Ice Hockey playing Officers, has now grown into a very large and amazing program. Almost every Saturday, 67 local children play and learn the sport of ice hockey. We partnered once more with the National Hockey League Players Association who provided equipment for 20 “new” kids to learn to play as well as a generous donation by the Los Angeles Kings. The new players range from 8-12 yrs. old. We have about 20 girls that are playing and earlier this year the Hawthorne Force 8U Girls team played its first ever real games in a tournament put on by the Lakewood Ice Arena. The girls were coached by Sgt Jim Connor (who went and got himself certified by USA Hockey as a coach). The little girls played so hard against established girl’s teams from northern and southern California. They skated they’re little hearts out, although they didn’t win any games, they tied several and came away happy as can be (plus they got a pizza party with all the other little girls.) All the HPD Officers involved in this amazing program donate all the time to be involved in this. They do this because the program has made such an impact on not only the lives of the children, but the parents and the officers themselves. I know that I have made several new friends because of the great parents I have met. Sgt James Connor, Lt Amy Yoshida, Sgt Nichols, Officers Heffner, Manley, Limbacher, Peraza and PSO Wallace have donated countless hours to make this program a huge success, in fact Force programs have just been started by the police in North Charleston SC and Ville Deux-Montagnes Canada base on the success and efforts of the Hawthorne Force program.
Hawthorne Police Mentor Program:
With the amazing success of my former Intern/mentee Yanet Alvarez who is now a premed student at UC Berkeley, I wanted to continue the momentum that was started with her. I began a very intensive mentoring program which meets once a week at the station. I have 3 girls (Kim Forman, Bridget Samayoa and Brittanay Perry) and 2 boys (Eugenio Chaidez and Orlando Gonzalez), all college bound who are learning about service, teamwork and what it takes to succeed in life. They group helped me during the Christmas season and learned what it means to pay it forward. The students have been empowered to come up with and create something special that the community can rally behind. They came up with the “Be Amazing” project and have spoken with executives of the Los Angeles Lakers and they have agreed to partner with us as we begin this program in the New Year. I am very proud of these 5 great kids and know they will be successful in life.
Things have come full circle:
Former Intern and current Cal pre-med student Yanet Alvarez has come full circle now in life. She and another amazing young Cal student Jackie Alvarez met an amazing little girl during the time we were giving out presents to needy families. They are going to begin mentoring this little girl and helping her to succeed. In fact one of the donors for Yanet’s college fund (raised by HPD employees and people all over the world), provided a Mac laptop to present to the girl so she can communicate with Yanet and Jackie when they are back up at school. It’s great to see kids who are successful, become positive role models and learn about paying it forward, that’s what solid communities are built on
The Power Project:
PSO Lameka Bell is the mother to a 10 yr old girl and understands the specific issues that young girls that age face. She wanted to start a mentoring program with a unique twist, like none other on earth. So with the help of the NHLPA once more the “Power Project” was born. Every Saturday 13 African American and Hispanic girls between the ages of 9-11 meet at the Hawthorne Police Station. PSO Bell along with records bureau supervisor Connie Cooper, admin secretary Joyce Walker, Detective Christy Chiarello and a HPD volunteer Shirley Hoffman all volunteer time each Saturday to teach the girls about positive self-image, hygiene, body awareness and self-esteem as well as bringing in woman to speak as role models and show what positive powerful women and girls can achieve. The girls of the Power Project will also learn to ice skate and play hockey as a team. This will introduce these special girls into a non-traditional sport and open up a world of college scholarship opportunities should they choose to continue playing. PSO Bell has applied for an ESPN grant which will make a huge difference in the program as like with Hawthorne Force, all monies are raised by HPD Employees.
The CAU has organized several events during the year highlighted by the 4th annual Halloween Safety Fair in partnership with the Los Angeles Kings. National Night out, Red Cross Blood drives, Apartment Owner and Managers seminars, AYSO fair , Senior Citizen safety seminar, numerous school events including a book giveaway in partnership w the Molena foundation. We gave out 3000 books to local kids in the schools. HPD command staff and lead area officers held very informative meetings in each of the major neighborhood areas. Residents were able to learn the inner workings of HPD and how we staff and operate individual units, directly from the members of those units. We also worked w the sparks of love foundation and various donors and were able to adopt quite a few families in need this year and provide some children with a great Christmas.
The Community Affairs Unit must deal with the growing issue of homeless and transient camps and activity all over the city. There is no “quick fix” for the homeless problem; it’s a much bigger issue nationwide as there is a distinct lack of resources, lack of local shelters, and help for the mentally ill. There is also the fact that many of the homeless you see in and around Hawthorne, simply choose to live that way. Detective Dixon and other HPD Officers must deal with a multitude of legal issues and procedures when attempting to relocate or dismantle large homeless encampments. Detective Dixon has worked diligently with Cal Trans, BNSF, LASO, CHP and the St Margaret’s center to address the issues. A short time ago, Detective Dixon and homeless service workers spent an entire day identifying and offering assistance to the local homeless population. We are continuing to try and find a solution to this growing problem, but in this case, it is going to take more than a simple “band aid” approach.
K9 Facility Dog Scottie:
Scottie the dog continues to be the most popular officer at HPD. Scottie has brought joy to so many in and around Hawthorne. On any given day, he can be visiting and comforting seniors, victims of crimes, students and even fellow officers who maybe be having a rough day. We are very proud of the work PSO Lameka Bell and Scottie have done; this ground breaking program has led to the creation of similar programs at Gulf Shores Alabama (one of the first US Departments to start Coffee with a Cop) , Denver Colorado, Jackson Tennessee. HPD receives phone calls every day from around the US on this ground breaking program and its ability to remove communication barriers bring courage to those who need it.
Coffee with a Cop:
The Coffee with a Cop program has literally put Hawthorne on the map as a worldwide community policing leader. Capt Kauffman, Det Dixon and I have traveled the continental U.S. teaching as part of a grant from the Office of Community Policing, this amazing class. We have had the opportunity to meet amazing police officers from the U.S. and Canada (Cafe avec un Policier) where the program is gaining huge momentum and establishing a fantastic program where residents and officers can just simply sit down, and get to know each other, without traditional barriers (police car, emergency call, etc) that prevent a relaxed and positive interaction between officers and community. One of the things we talk about in the class is “Proximal Relationships” which is when officers get out of the cars, talk to store owner, teachers etc. and understand that we have the same “shared expectations”. These proximal relationships can lead to amazing community partnerships and really help sew the fabric of what a good community is. Coffee with a Cop is now becoming quite a popular program all over Australia as a way to reach out to non- native population and has just begun in Northern Ireland. It’s so inspiring to see the things that started here in Hawthorne, the values we hold dear and the commitment to community, help build bridges around the world. There are literally HUNDREDS of Police Department’s across the world doing Coffee with a Cop, it all started here…in our little city of Good Neighbors, Hawthorne California.
The Future for me, Sgt Chris Cognac:
About 6 months ago the Department of Justice Office of Community Policing put out a call for the first ever “Law Enforcement Fellow”. The position was open to all police officers in the United States and I am proud to say that I was chosen for this groundbreaking position. Once again, Hawthorne will be on the forefront of community policing, teaching and influencing the future of community policing on a national scale. I will be working in Washington DC for a week a month to help create programs, ideas and to build more positive and impactful police, community relationships.
Thanks to all of you:
I want to take the time to thank each and every one of you for everything you have done to make Hawthorne a great place. The City of Hawthorne is full of potential and hope, big things are beginning to happen here and I am excited to see the forward thinkers and committed community members step up and help make this a great city.
Have a great and safe New Year’s…here’s to a great 2015!
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.