Sacramento State Coffee With Cops event brings together students, police

Kathleen Pizzo

The Wellness Center held its second annual Coffee and Donuts with the Cops event Tuesday morning, allowing students to come together with Sacramento State Police to break down barriers and ask questions.

The event was started last year by Jessica Heskin, an advocate and health educator for the Student Health and Counseling Services at the Well. The idea to hold the event was brought to Heskins’ attention by a peer health educator and first took place in fall 2012.

The event was held in the Well so students felt as though they were in a comfortable environment.

“People tend to be afraid of cops,” Heskin said. “We were hoping that we could get students more comfortable with coming to law enforcement, should they see anything go wrong or should they see anything suspicious.”

Heskin said if people came to the event to talk to police officers and ask questions, they would be more likely to approach a police officer around campus if they felt something was wrong.

“We thought if students were apprehensive about going up to police officers they aren’t going into a police department,” Heskin said.

Mark Iwasa, who became the chief of police in January 2012, holds two degrees from Sac State and said he is very campus-community oriented.

“We have the same objectives as (students) do, which is to come here and have a safe environment where they can get an education and enjoy the campus,” Iwasa said. “I think it is important for police, faculty staff and students to all be working together, so I think this is the great way to establish a relationship.”

Iwasa said many students feel they may be bothering campus police when approaching an officer. The police department participates in events like Coffee with Cops to build the police and student relationship.  

“I definitely feel a lot safer knowing the campus police are so interested in helping students,” said Bridget Peterson, a 21-year-old communication studies major. “My dad was a police officer and a detective (in) my hometown, and I’ve been raised relying on law enforcement and feeling most comfortable around them.”

Peterson, who attended the event both this year and last year, said she was grateful the event had been started.

“I can tell they’re really community-oriented,” Peterson said.

Peterson’s biggest question for the police was how safe she would be walking around at night.

“I didn’t know how trustworthy the (blue) call phones would be if I ever needed to use them, but now I know they actually work,” Peterson said.

The event also allowed those interested in criminal justice and social work to ask questions and served as a learning opportunity.

“It’s a really good opportunity for students on an educational basis to get information from law enforcement on hand,” Heskin said.

Ishmael Pruitt, a criminal justice major and peer advisor for general education and criminal justice, said this kind of event is useful for students.

“For criminal justice students especially, this kind of event is useful because the officers have already had that experience of making it into the profession,” Pruitt said. “They have gained connections, so even for those students who don’t specifically want to be a police officer, they have insight.”

Pruitt also said a lot of students may not even know that real officers are present on campus and an event like Coffee and Donuts with the Cops would enlighten the Sac State community to what is available.

“The students are the eyes and ears of the campus police,” Heskin said. “Without the students, we wouldn’t be able to solve as many crimes as we normally would.”