The Coffee with a Cop event is designed to foster good relations between law enforcement and the community

Canandaigua resident John McKelvey believes its a tough time to be a cop.

It seems more challenging than ever before, McKelvey said.

That is why he felt it was important to show his support for local law enforcement and attend Ontario County’s first Coffee with a Cop event, which was held late Wednesday afternoon at the Canandaigua Wegmans.

A number of people filled a private room inside Wegmans Market Café to attend the two-hour meet and greet, which was focused on fostering good relations between local law enforcement and the community. People were encouraged to stop by, grab a cup of Joe and chat with area police officers on any topic of their choice, from traffic to sports.

Those who attended had different reasons for stopping by. Some had questions or concerns, while others simply wanted to show their support for the men and women in blue. The non-profit organization Bikers Against Child Abuse, which does work in Ontario and neighboring counties, was on hand to support the police officers, as well.

The event was presented by Ontario County Back the Blue, a program started almost five years ago by Shortsville resident Donna Schaertl. Wegmans provided the refreshments, which went beyond coffee and included sandwiches, pizza and desserts.

Various members of law enforcement were on hand to meet the public, including those from the Canandaigua Police Department, Ontario County Sheriff’s Office and New York State Police Troop E.

Coffee with a Cop was launched in Hawthorne, California, in 2011 as a way for the local police department to more successfully interact with the public. Coffee with a Cop events are now held in all 50 states. The program has also expanded to Canada, Europe, Australia, Africa and Latin America.

The key to Coffee with a Cop’s growing success is that it opens the door for interactions outside of the crisis situations that typically bring law enforcement officers and community members together, organizers say.

Ontario County Undersheriff David Frasca was pleased with the outcome of Ontario County’s event and is already in talks to hold another one in Geneva later this year. He added that in addition to police officers, the event was attended by personnel from the correction department and 911 Center.

Frasca spoke with residents on topics such as traffic. He believes such face-to-face meetings help break down barriers.

“We want the support of the public, and we need it to keep the community safe,” he said.

Schaertl, who suffered a tragedy 20 years ago and found some comfort in the help she received from local police officers, felt Coffee with a Cop would continue to help grow the relationship between local law enforcement and the community.

“You never forget how they touched you,” said Schaertl of the support she received from the police officers. “I want people to see them how I see them.”