Bridging the gap with coffee and cops

By Blythe Alspaugh - [email protected]



SIDNEY — The Sidney Police Department, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and State Highway Patrol are teaming up to bridge the gap of understanding between the community and law enforcement.

Coffee with a Cop, a program Sidney Police has run in the past, will be returning Wednesday, July 20, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Senior Center of Sidney-Shelby County. Featured law enforcement officials at the event will be Sidney Police Chief William Balling, Shelby County Sheriff Jim Frye and State Highway Patrol Lt. Joseph Gebhart.

Balling, who has helped organize Coffee with a Cop programs in the past and wanted to collaborate with other law enforcement officials on this one, emphasized that the program is not a presentation, but an open forum for members of the community to come and ask questions of their law enforcement.

“The concept of these is that we’re going to host an open forum at the Senior Center and invite people from the public people from social media, anybody that wants to come, and basically, the whole concept is just to have a conversation,” Balling said. “We’ll open it up, we’ll have a brief overview of the things within our department or things we see in Shelby County, which will be very quick — we’re really leaving it for people to drive the conversation and ask questions.”

While this isn’t the first time that Balling has organized Coffee with a Cop or collaborated with other organizations, this is the first time all three agencies are there together. Bringing Frye and Gebhart into the conversation was a natural decision for Balling, given that some questions that may come up could be better suited to their expertise.

“Some things that happen in the county may filter into the city, and vice versa, and the post may have different perspectives on things, and I thought it would be really good to have all three of us on the same stage so people can see us working together, talking, and they could ask us all questions at the same time,” Balling said.

Organizing the event in collaboration with the Sheriff’s Office and State Highway Patrol was something Balling had wanted to do for a while, and it had come down to something as simple as reaching out to Frye and Gebhart to gauge availability and interest.

“Both of them were on board instantly, and they’ve been great to work with,” Balling said.

In the past, Coffee with a Cop had commonly been held at the Sidney Police Department. Balling intentionally sought out a more neutral space like the Senior Center to further drive the point that the event is a community event and a conversation driven by the community.

“I wanted to find a place that was welcoming to the public. We didn’t want to have it at a police department, we didn’t want to have it at the Sheriff’s office, because we didn’t want to put that barrier up. The Senior Center has this great area that we can use that is warm and inviting, that people can hopefully feel free to say anything they want,” Balling said. “It’s kind of like sitting around the table and having a conversation, on a bigger scale.”

Past Coffee with a Cop events have proven successful for the Sidney Police in gaining a better understanding on what the community’s concerns were and what they may or may not understand about policework in the local community.

“We learn so much from the people there, and it’s that friendly structure that we want to have. We’ve had good community response, and I feel a lot better after doing them, because it’s really getting back down to the grassroots of why we do this job. For the lieutenant and the sheriff and I, we’ve often said that, we want to hear what people have to say, because that’s how we grow and we learn,” Balling said.


By Blythe Alspaugh

[email protected]

The Sidney Daily News conducts a periodic interview to update readers with news from the Sidney Police Department, 234 W. Court St., Sidney.

The Sidney Daily News conducts a periodic interview to update readers with news from the Sidney Police Department, 234 W. Court St., Sidney.