So Pas Police Break Down Barriers with a Cup of Coffee

From left, Corp. Avick Manukian, from Starbucks Josh Toenjes and Craig Shanan, So Pas Interim Police Chief Brian Solinsky, Capt. Bob Bartl, Kay Mouradian and Corp. John Salcido Photo by Steve Whitmore

The South Pasadena Police Department (SPPD) deployed several officers, including the interim police chief, to man a post Monday night at the Starbucks on Fair Oaks Avenue.

No, it was not a crime scene. It was not a DUI Checkpoint or the ubiquitous “ongoing investigation.” There was no crime-scene tape up, keeping the public at bay. Just the opposite. The public was welcome.

It was, in fact, for the Coffee with a Cop program that allows So Pas residents to mingle with the officers, ask questions, complain about lack of traffic enforcement or express gratitude for the service police provide the small community of South Pasadena.

So Pas Police Chief Brian Solinsky visits with Josh Toenjes, Starbucks district manager. Photo by Steve Whitmore

Scores of residents stopped by the outside patio area of the Starbucks at 454 Fair Oaks Ave. from 6 to 8 p.m. The post was manned for a while by SPPD Capt. Bob Bartl, Corp. John Salcido, Corp. Avick Manukian and even Interim Police Chief Brian Solinsky. All were on hand to answer questions from the public about any subject.

Solinsky explained the outreach program as a way to break down any barriers that may exist between cops and residents.

“Coffee with a Cop is a great way to meet community members in a low pressure setting and talk about everyday issues,” Solinsky said during an interview about the program. “It’s a chance for the officers and community members to get to know each other on a first name basis. It’s a small step in breaking down barriers and building meaningful relationships.”

Monday night was the third time Salcido has done the program and he also said they’re important.

“I feel it’s a great way for the community to come out, the officers to come out, members of the city to come out and sit and chat, talk about things – not only what’s going on in the city but everyday things,” Salcido said. “I think it helps the city. Residents get to know the officers and get to meet them in an informal way.”

From left, South Pasadena Police Corporal John Salcido holds the Coffee with a Cup announcment along with Corporal Avick Manukian. Photo by Steve Whitmore

Longtime So Pas resident Kay Mouradian agreed saying the program gives the community a chance to visit with law enforcement in an informal, causal setting that can break down barriers if they exist. She also said it helps maintain the small-town atmosphere of South Pasadena, which is paramount for everyone.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Mouradian said. “I’ve lived here for more than 50 years and this is a small, intimate community. This Coffee with a Cop promotes the comradery we have here in South Pasadena and that’s important. This would not happen in a big city. This is just one more thing that brings us together.”

Even the district manager for Starbucks, Josh Toenjes, was on hand to lend his support and he said Starbucks is grateful to participate.

“We try to do these at every one of our stores at least once a year,” Toenjes said. “We want our customers to know that our stores are safe and welcoming and this is just one way we to do that. It is a great experience for us, local law enforcement and most important, our customers.”