Westbrook Police Officer Joel Loranger views the Coffee with a Cop program as a potential perk of his job.

A third-shift patrol officer, Loranger, 38, rarely gets to interact with Westbrook residents in a carefree, leisurely manner. His working hours are usually spent responding to late-night emergencies, following up on criminal reports and dealing with early morning commuter traffic issues – all scenarios that lend themselves to less-than-positive talking points.

But the coffee klatch from 8 to 10 a.m. Friday at Mr. Bagel, 609 Main St. in Westbrook, offers Loranger and his fellow officers an opportunity to get to know community members in a friendly, neutral setting that is free of agendas.

“There is no particular topic of discussion that is expected – just a chance to sit down and talk about nothing or everything,” said Loranger.

Based on a national model that started in 2011 in Hawthorne, California, Coffee with a Cop invites community members to have a free cup of coffee, ask questions, voice concerns and get to know their local law enforcement officials a little better.

Since its inception, the program has opened such conversations in 48 states and nearly 2,000 communities in the United States, as well as in Canada and Australia.

Loranger learned about the program through his former employer, the Torrance Police Department in California. After hearing lots of positive feedback from his former co-workers, Loranger pitched the idea to Westbrook Police Chief Janine Roberts, who gave him a thumbs-up to proceed.

So far, he has enlisted seven or eight Westbrook officers to volunteer their time.

“This is a great opportunity for us to establish positive contacts with the community – especially in today’s climate, where there is a lot of negative news surrounding police departments around the country,” said Loranger, who has served in law enforcement for nearly a decade.

Four officers will attend the first event, including Chief Roberts and a representative of the detective’s bureau.

According to Roberts, the program also serves to educate residents about legal procedure and laws that may restrict what officers can do in their neighborhoods; correct misinformation and misunderstandings among law enforcement officials and the community; and inform others about different cultures and community resources that are available.

“One of many philosophies I have developed throughout the years is that everything we do in life comes down to relationships and communications,” noted Roberts. “We are constantly communicating with people, whether verbally, written or by body language.”

The selection of Mr. Bagel for the first meeting was an easy choice.

“It’s located next to the Westbrook Police Department,” said Loranger. “I stopped there to grab a coffee one morning, and there were 16 or 20 people sitting in the dining area. I spoke with the owner about the program and he was all for it.”

The talks are not intended to be debating grounds for politics or global issues.

“If people want to talk with us about something bigger or not appropriate for that setting, we will make arrangements to talk about it in a more private setting,” said Loranger. “We want to address issues that people may have concerns about in the city or just have a discussion about how the (New England) Patriots are doing.”

Another effort that police are undertaking to make their presence more recognizable is the return of police officer collector cards; similar to baseball cards, they feature each officer’s picture along with short biographies and personal messages.

For more details about Coffee with a Cop, contact Loranger at [email protected]