by Logan Gruber
Coffee with a Cop is a chance for area residents to chat with police officers, as well as to have the opportunity to possibly mix with representatives of elected officials and of the Metro Citizens Police Academy. Residents can ask questions, make suggestions or just socialize with the participants.
Coffee with a Cop is hosted by the MCPA. The mission of the MCPA, according to the City of St. Cloud’s website, is “to assist the community [including the surrounding cities] in better understanding police training, procedures and philosophy through classroom and hands-on training conducted by area police officers.”
On March 26, St. Joseph Police Chief Joel Klein, Metro Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association President Fred Hinkle, along with Karen Miller, the deputy district director for the St. Cloud area for U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, were on hand at McDonald’s in St. Joseph.
A few residents dropped by to chat, including Mary Ann and Jim Graeve of St. Joseph.
Mary Ann Graeve said she was interested in possibly starting a neighborhood watch in St. Joseph.
“Has there ever been an effort to have a neighborhood watch?” Mary Ann asked Klein, after a lengthy discussion on planting radishes.
“I’ve had some people approach me about it,” Klein said. “I talked to a guy just two days ago.”
Klein said it’s helpful if someone comes forward, wanting to work together on a neighborhood watch. The effort can’t come only from the police department.
“When we get calls on a dog or something, I always ask, ‘Did you talk to your neighbor?’ And usually the answer is, ‘No.’ Just try to be neighborly . . . A lot of problems can be solved just by calling your neighbors.”
In light of recent events in Ferguson, Mo. and in other cities across the nation, Mary Ann asked Klein about the training the police in St. Joseph and the surrounding areas receive.
“Minnesota is probably one of the best places in the country in regards to police training,” Klein said. “We train all the time. We take classes and train with other departments.”
Klein went on to say all officers undergo a psychiatric test, as well as criminal history and background checks, before being hired. He said that lessens the likelihood of officers having or causing issues.
“My goal is to stay out of the papers . . . in a bad way,” Klein said with a smile.
St. Joseph has one patrol sergeant and five patrol officers, as well as the chief on the police department and about eight voluntary reserve officers. Mary Ann asked Klein what scheduling is like for police coverage in the city.
Klein said while his schedule is flexible, there is always one patrol car in service from 7 a.m.-5 p.m., another from 5 p.m.-3 a.m. and an additional car from 9 p.m.-7 a.m.
Jim Graeve was surprised by the number of officers in St. Joseph.
“When we came to St. Joseph – a million years ago – or 50 – there was one cop, and he was an alcoholic!” Jim commented.
“Times have changed,” Klein said.
Duplication of effort
Mary Ann noted that she will often hear multiple emergency vehicles headed to one location, and she wondered if it might be overkill in some situations. Chief Klein said often, on the scene, they just need bodies, whether for traffic control, life-saving measures or some other task.
“When a medical call comes through, they call the police first, the fire department second and then Gold Cross (ambulance service) comes,” Klein said.
Police are usually already patrolling and are thus able to perform life-saving first aid in some cases while awaiting the help of the fire department and the ambulance, Klein said.
Mary Ann also asked whether police worked with security at the College of St. Benedict and if there is a duplication of effort there.
“CSB security can’t arrest anyone,” Klein noted. “They’re for security purposes only.”
The next Coffee with a Cop will be held in Sartell from 8:30-10:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 29 at an as-yet-undetermined location. The next St. Joseph Coffee with a Cop has not been set up as of yet.