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Having a coffee date with a local cop

Inspector Stuart Trevallion of the Redfern Local Area Command.
Inspector Stuart Trevallion of the Redfern Local Area Command.

ABC: Lisa Clarke

Blind dates can sometimes be a bit scary, but at least when you're meeting up with a cop for the first time they'll probably have some pretty interesting stories to share.

On February 23 people across New South Wales had the chance to go on a coffee date with a local police officer at dozens of events statewide.

Inspector Stuart Trevallion was waiting to meet the public bright and early at a cafe in Waterloo, only a few kilometres from the Sydney central business district.

"So do you like donuts?" I queried, genuinely wanting to know, half wanting to break the ice.

I got the impression that was probably one of the dumber questions Inspector Trevallion has been asked in his 20+ years with the NSW Police Force.

No Chief Wiggum jokes then.

With the piece of banana bread plated on the table next to his cup of coffee, I probably should have guessed he wasn't a donut man.

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All jokes aside, the success of the initiative relies on its non-evasiveness. Anyone can come along to sit and talk with a local officer about anything they want to; whether they come along to just say g'day, discuss a parking ticket they recently received, or yes, even debate the best donut flavours.

It doesn't take long before members of the community come over to discover what all the fuss is about.

A mother has brought along her young son, who is sitting with another officer two tables behind Inspector Trevallion and I. He looks pretty excited to be playing with the officer's hat.

According to Inspector Trevallion, even if the child doesn't remember coming along on this particular day, it's simple things like this that help to build a lifelong relationship with the community.

"It's important that we do this, because we can't be foreign to the people we're looking after."

Initially an initiative started by members of the Hawthorne Police Department in California in 2011, Coffee With A Cop aims to break down perceived barriers between police officers and the community.

The Fairfield Local Area Command in Western Sydney began holding the events five years ago as a way to build more of a rapport with the community. As a result of the success they've seen over the years, the event is now being run across the state.

Having a coffee with a cop can be a great way to understand the issues in your local community.
Having a coffee with a cop can be a great way to understand the issues in your local community.

ABC: Lisa Clarke

Building a relationship with the local community is extremely important for Inspector Trevallion and his colleagues, because he says it helps people to feel more comfortable coming to them with problems they are facing.

"It's important that people know we're approachable, it's important that we're within the community on a regular basis," he says.

In his role as a customer service duty officer at Redfern, Inspector Trevallion comes up against a number of issues, ranging from problematic areas such as mental health and dealing with some of the complications that come with high density housing, to working alongside the local councils and hospitals.

"All those community groups that have a stake in the smooth running of society... fall within my jurisdiction," says Inspector Trevallion.

"From my point of view, the more we can get down in those areas, talk to those people, and have them come and have a coffee with us, the better it is because we know what's going on."

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