A national initiative this week offered local residents an opportunity for casual conversation with members of the Hillsboro Police Department during Wednesday morning’s Coffee with a Cop event.
The initiative, now in its third year, has the objective of bridging the gap between the community and the law. In Hillsboro, the gap was bridged at Momma’s West Main Cafe, where locals mingled with police for a few hours over a hot cup of coffee.
Police Chief Darrin Goudy told The Times-Gazette that Coffee with a Cop gives citizens a chance to the sit down with a police officer and not only get better acquainted with them, but also share any problems or concerns regarding the community they call home.
Goudy said the annual event is right in line with the core principals that he and his fellow officers share: to serve and protect.
“Chief Goudy thought it would be a good idea to meet with the people of Hillsboro,” said Special Resource Officer Tim Bell, “and that way we could answer any questions they had because usually the only time we meet them is during an emergency or a traffic stop.”
He and Sergeant Shawn Kelley both had praise for the event, saying they thought it was a great way to serve the community.
“When we’re out on calls, we don’t have the time to engage in any sort of chit chat,” Kelley said, “and this is a great way for folks to introduce their kids to us so they will know there’s nothing to be afraid of and we’re here to help them when they’re in trouble.”
Local residents got to know Bell and Kelley at Coffee with a Cop, and likely learned that both men were focused on careers in law enforcement from a young age.
“I was an infantryman in the Ohio National Guard,” Kelley said. “I’m one of those stories where 9/11 happened and by Oct. 2, I was sworn in.”
Kelley’s interest in law enforcement began while he was in college studying mechanical engineering.
“I was always interested in law enforcement,” he said, “and one of my sergeants introduced me to the career opportunities and showed me what steps I had to take.”
In a story reminiscent of the old NBC-TV series “Adam-12,” where a younger officer is teamed up with a seasoned veteran for road patrol, Kelley’s first partner when he joined the force in 2003 was Bell.
“I knew when I was a teenager that this was what I wanted to do,” Bell said. “So I decided to pursue it and lucky for me, I started when I was young.”
The 1984 graduate of Hillsboro High School began his career at the age of 21 at the Highland County Sherriff’s Office before joining the HPD a year later. The beat he walks now is the hallways of the Hillsboro City Schools as the district’s resource officer.
“It’s the same thing I do on the road, except now I’m at the school,” he said. “We deal with all the schools, plus I go to the FRS (Family Recovery Services) alternative school, and you’ll see me at the Christian school and the Catholic school.”
For both officers, the career choice they committed to years ago is rewarding and fulfilling.
“What makes this worthwhile for me is not only helping somebody,” Kelley said, “but I’ve found out firsthand that people are appreciative of what we do, even though it doesn’t feel like it when you watch the national news.”
Kelley shared several instances where he was in a drive-thru getting coffee or grabbing a burger and fries while working late, then discovering that his food had been paid for by the people in the car in front of him.
For Kelley, chasing criminals is a daily task — and while sharing a cup of coffee with a neighbor at Momma’s doesn’t happen as often, it’s all part of the job.
“I love what I’m doing,” Kelley said. “I mean, where else can you go to work and get to interact with so many different people on a daily basis, and your office space is roughly five square miles… what’s not to like?”
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.