'Coffee with a Cop' sparks open dialogue in Bay St. Louis

'Coffee with a Cop' sparks open dialogue in Bay St. Louis

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Sweet treats and hot coffee were a perfect blend to get the conversation going in a packed room at city hall in Bay St. Louis on Tuesday.

The Bay St. Louis Police Department hosted 'Coffee with a Cop' as an opportunity for people to talk about their concerns directly with law enforcement.

"It's as simple as parking, to fraud cases, to violent cases, to burglaries. So, depending on each individual and what their topic is, it's a variety of issues we can address," said Chief Gary Ponthieux.

Samantha Walley saw the event as a chance to meet some new faces.

"We had a lot of change in our police staffing and in our city council. So, this is a good opportunity to meet ones we haven't met before. And also you have everyone in one room. So, if you have an issue to address, you can speak to multiple people instead of making multiple appointments all over town at one time," said Walley.

The event brought out several city pastors who said it's important for churches to have a good relationship with the police.

"It's always good when we can promote that community feel and let people know that police are here for them, and let the police know that we are here for them if they need us," said Pastor Sullivan Jones.

Pastor Allen Jenkins said staying engaged with police is especially vital in the African-American community.

"When anything ever arises, we can go to them directly without any accusations and get the facts - as much as they will release. So, we can come back and inform our congregations and the community of exactly what's happening," Jenkins said.

It was a relaxed setting, perfect for the one-on-one interactions the event's special guest Attorney General Jim Hood said was key.

"Community relations are the way law enforcement works. You have to know people in the community, and they have to trust you," Hood said.

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