Rigby Police Department patrol car | Courtesy Rigby Police Department
RIGBY – An event aimed at bolstering the relationship between police officers and residents will start in Rigby next month.
The Rigby Police Department is launching a Coffee with Cops program where members of the community can have a coffee or another drink with an officer one morning each month. The goal of the program is for locals to interact with officers outside of an emergency situation, and help them get to know officers on a personal level.
“People can come and interface with us, talk to us about whatever they want. Maybe they have questions about law enforcement or maybe they just want to get to know us, which is what I want it to be more focused on so the community knows, recognizes and can identify our officers and bridge that gap,” Rigby Police Chief Sam Tower tells EastIdahoNews.com.
This program comes in the wake of Derek Chauvin’s conviction, a former Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer whom a jury found guilty of murder and manslaughter Tuesday for pinning George Floyd to the pavement with his knee on Floyd’s neck. Though this case sparked a series of riots worldwide and began a national conversation about racism and policing in the U.S., Tower says he hasn’t noticed any negative attitude toward law enforcement in Rigby.
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The Coffee with a Cop program isn’t a response to this case specifically, he says, but is more an attempt to prevent this kind of attitude from occurring in local neighborhoods.
“People are treating us great. We have a very supportive community and we haven’t noticed anti-police rhetoric or anything like that, but I don’t want it to get there,” Tower says. “I believe in preventing those types of attitudes rather than trying to fix them once they’re entrenched.”
Since the incident with Chauvin and Floyd last May, Tower says they’ve been asked many times what their stance is on Chauvin’s actions. Tower says he is reluctant to comment on it because Rigby is much different than Minneapolis and he isn’t familiar with every facet of the case.
However, he did outline the department’s policy on the use of force if a similar type of incident were to happen in Rigby.
“I can tell you there’s no use of force procedure or technique that we teach about kneeling on anyone’s neck. But through the use of force, is there a time when that may have to occur? Yes,” Tower says. “We teach techniques of kneeling on people’s upper backs. That’s taught all around the world. Sometimes people say it looks like (excessive pressure), but … it looks worse than it is. Most of the pressure is not on their back, it’s on their feet.”
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Though Tower says it’s an effective way of controlling a hard-to-handle individual while they’re handcuffing them, there is also a policy about de-escalating the use of force once the suspect is under control.
“Those are policies that have been in our books and operating procedures since before I was a police officer,” he says.
Courtesy Rigby Police Department
Tower says it’s rewarding as a police officer to know he’s doing something to help his community and be a peacekeeper. One of his proudest moments happened several years ago when he crossed paths with a man he helped send to prison for a drug-related crime.
After serving his time and getting acclimated back into society, the man gave Tower a Christmas present and thanked him for his treatment towards him.
Regarding what action Tower took to earn the man’s kind response, Tower simply says he treated him fairly.
“I approached the case as I think it should’ve been approached. This guy had issues, had addictions and problems that, because they were unchecked, caused him to act criminally,” Tower says. “My ultimate outcome is to get them help. Sometimes if people won’t help themselves, we have to do it through the court system. He’s done his time and is a member of the community again (and this is one of many experiences) that makes me proud to be an officer.”
Tower hopes the Coffee with a Cop program will increase the community’s opportunity to engage with officers in a positive manner. He wants people to develop good relationships with law enforcement in their community.
Starting in May, Coffee with a Cop will be held at 9 a.m. at the Rigby Police Department on the second Tuesday of every month. Social distancing and COVID-19 precautions will be used. Coffee and cups will be supplied by Maverik.
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