CEDAR CITY — Cedar City community members braved the cold Saturday to meet with officers from the Cedar City Police Department, enjoy a free lunch and experience the inside of a police car at the first annual “Lunch With a Cop” event.
Originally planned to be hosted at the Main Street Park, the event was moved by organizers to the bottom level of the Cedar City Parking Garage after temperatures dropped to the mid-40s and a light rain began to fall.
Still, a steady flow of adults and children made their way to the lunch and were welcomed with pizza, doughnuts and smiles from the officers in attendance.
“I am pumped about the turnout we’ve had,” Officer Isaac Askeroth, of the Cedar City Police Department, said. “I was really surprised considering the (weather).”
The concept for Lunch With a Cop first came about when a patrol officer presented the idea of hosting an event to help officers connect with the community, Cedar City Police Lt. Keith Millett said. The department agreed and thought it would be a great way for the public to get to know the officers and also bring forward any questions or concerns they may have.
Concerns raised by some community members in attendance had to do with traffic safety and how police can go about making the roads safer, Millett said.
“One lady … was concerned people were still texting on their phones a lot while driving and people were driving too fast,” Millett said. “She just wanted to let us know she would like to see more traffic control.”
The event was a chance for parents and their children to meet with police officers face-to-face in a positive way, Shalene Zingelman, of Enoch, said. These interactions can allow children to learn more about police officers and what their jobs are like.
“It helps alleviate any fear when they can be around (the officers), see what they do and learn about their role in our society,” Zingelman said. “It helps our kids learn about the law and what police do to enforce the law.”
Some of the interactions with children at the event hit a lot closer to home. Millett said he spoke with one man whose grandchildren were currently living with him because his son had been arrested.
“He wanted to have (his grandchildren) come by and meet the police so they could see that we aren’t bad or scary,” Millett said, “but that we are trying to do things that are good.”
Those who would still like to learn more about the department or want to observe the typical day of an officer are also able to sign up for a ride-along, Millett said.
The requirements for a ride-along are that the attendant be at least 16 years old and pass a police background check, Millett said. Paperwork for signing up can be picked up at the Cedar City Police Department at 10 N. Main Street in Cedar City.
“We want to be a very transparent police department,” Millett said. “We want to let people know that we are here and we are on their side. We’re trying to do what we can to protect them and keep people safe.”
The cost of the food, doughnuts and utensils was completely covered by multiple businesses that sponsored the event, Askeroth said. With the assistance of Complete Family Dental, Webster Orthodontics, the Burgess Group, Lin’s grocery store, Wal-Mart and 5Buck Pizza, the event was hosted without any money coming out of CCPD funds.
Because of the overall success of Lunch With a Cop, the department is hoping to host a similar event early next year when the weather is warmer, Askeroth said.
“We want the public to know that we appreciate them in supporting us in everything that we do,” Askeroth said.
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