With an easy smile and a hot cup of coffee, Const. Leisa Schaefer greets thirsty patrons at the Starbucks. She offers a seat, something to sip and a chance to bend her ear about whatever’s on your mind.
Welcome to the Delta Police Department’s Cappuccino with a Cop.
On Dec. 15, Delta Police held their first Cappuccino with a Cop public outreach event in North Delta. The department began holding these monthly events in South Delta in June and Schaefer, who runs the community police station in Tsawwassen, has attended a half-dozen.
She said the response to the previous events has been overwhelmingly positive; depending on the day, upwards of 80 people would drop by to pick her brain about policing in Delta.
“It’s all about community engagement and allowing the community to come in a casual environment and ask us anything that they want,” Schaefer said. “There are no expectations. It’s simply sit down and if you want to talk to your local police force, we’re here and we’re accessible.”
Schaefer said what makes Cappuccino with a Cop so special for her is the opportunity it affords to interact with people as a police officer outside of a typical police situation.
“The best part is talking to people, but where you’re not arresting them, you’re not dealing with them because they’re a victim of crime,” she said.
“You’re dealing with them because they’re coming in to grab a cup of coffee, or they’ve come because they want to ask a question about getting hired or whatever. It’s a casual sort of getting-to-know-you, friendly conversation. That’s the best part. That’s what I like.”
Other than fielding recruitment-related questions, Schaefer said most of the time people come out because they’re curious to learn more about crime in their community, rather than to lodge a complaint or report an incident.
“We’ve got three very different demographics. We’ve got Ladner, we’ve got Tsawwassen and we’ve got North Delta, and they run the gamut [of types of calls],” she said. “Property crime, theft of auto, theft from auto, assaults, domestic assaults, Mental Health Act [calls]… You can’t really say that there’s more crime in North Delta or there’s more crime [elsewhere in Delta] because it’s just different.”
When people come in with questions about pursuing a career in policing, Schaefer has a long history with the department to draw from. Previous to joining the force as a police officer 14 years ago, she spent two years as a volunteer with the DPD’s victim services section helping support victims of crime and trauma.
Schaefer is also the third generation of her family to serve in the department, something of a family tradition that dates back to the 1940s. Her grandfather patrolled the streets of Ladner as the DPD’s night watchman, and after serving in the military police during the Second World War, her father joined him as only the third full-time employee of the department.
“There were three members of the Delta Police Department at that time. There was [Police Chief] Scott Fenton, my grandfather Alfred Dennis, and my dad. And [now] here I am.”
Perhaps predictably, Schaefer is more than happy to help others walk the same career path she has.
“Oh yeah, how can I not? It’s just something I do and I love. If somebody’s interested and they meet the require-ments that are laid out by our recruiting section, yeah, I fully encourage it. It’s an honourable career.”
But the most important thing she hopes people walk away from the event with is a closer connection to the officers in their community and, hopefully, a willingness to talk to police outside of the coffee shop as well.
“I think there is some hesitation because people call the police when something bad is happening. This is kind of a different kind of concept where nothing bad is happening and we’re there being accessible. So, it’s a concept that people have to get used to,” Schaefer said.
“Do we encourage people coming up to us while we’re walking the streets and talking to us? Absolutely. And this is maybe a way of promoting that type of interaction to get people to come and talk to us. Because we’re pretty nice people. [laughs]”