Friday morning, there was no contest for which was the most secure coffee shop, or for that matter, most secure facility of any kind, on Marco Island.
Well over a dozen armed law enforcement officers from the Collier County Sherriff’s Office and the Marco Island Police Department converged on Dunkin Donuts in the Marco Town Center from 8 to 10 a.m. for “Coffee with a Cop,” giving the community the chance to interact on a friendly, personal basis with police personnel, and the officers the chance to get to know more of the people they protect.
It also gave both the public and the police the chance to enjoy free coffee and donuts provided by Dunkin Donuts, although this seemed to be a point of some sensitivity for the uniformed members of the gendarmerie. Not the coffee, which was poured out of large “Box of Joe” containers and gratefully consumed – the donuts.
It seems that members of the law enforcement community have had enough of the stereotype and endless jokes about cops and donuts. Not one of the male officers present would get anywhere near the boxes of complimentary donuts, especially when a camera was pointed in their direction.
The clear winner of the (unofficial, imaginary) “bravest law enforcement officer award” was Sheriff’s Corporal Tamy Martin, who alone among her fellow officers was willing to pick up and eat a donut, and be photographed doing so.
The only way MIPD Chief Al Schettino was pictured in the same vicinity of a donut was via a setup by his staff, when bicycle officer Sal Pernice “donut bombed” him, thrusting the sinful, sugary, sprinkled and frosted concoction in his face.
“That makes this his exit interview,” said a fellow MIPD officer.
“This is probably my last day,” agreed Pernice. Schettino did confess to a personal weakness for vanilla cream donuts, when he’s not being observed.
While the gathering was billed as “Coffee with a Cop,” one observer noted it could have been called “coffee for a cop,” as the officers vastly outnumbered civilians on hand. They spent a good deal of their time under the awning in front of Dunkin Donuts talking with each other, as the only non-police on hand for a good deal of the morning were members of the news media.
This is not a bad thing, though, as it provided a chance for the sheriff’s deputies and MIPD officers to communicate in a low-key occasion, far from the often tense situations in which they often work with each other. Along with the “heat” they were packing – an impressive amount of sidearms, Tasers, and Mace or whatever they use these days, let alone the weapons in their vehicles, a noticeable topic of conversation was the heat – and humidity – that permeated the atmosphere.
Even in the early morning, the air was stifling for someone in short sleeves and shorts, and these officers were wearing long pants, heavy shoes and body armor, as well as their cumbersome utility belts.
The CCSO has done the Coffee with a Cop events all over the county, said community relations specialist Erin Dever. They work closely with the MIPD, and share resources including their canine units, SWAT teams and helicopter crews, including a new Huey chopper arriving next week.
The heavy law enforcement presence caused some community members to wonder what was going on as they showed up for their regular caffeine and sugar fix.
“I feel like I’m in trouble,” said Toni McCully in jest, arriving for a regular get-together with a group of friends. Schettino said events such as this one help with his vision of working with the public, or what the sheriff’s office calls “C.O.P.,” or community-oriented policing.
“We’re trying to build a relationship with the community, so they feel comfortable. That way, if they need something, they’ve already got a working relationship” with the department,” said Schettino.
Marco Island City Councilor Howard Reed showed up to pick up some donuts, and talked to Marco’s Fire-Rescue Chief Mike Murphy.
“The more the community spends time with the first responders, the more they see them as people who keep them safe,” said Reed.