Emily Michaels, who said she recently moved in near the Old Sawmill District, hadn’t expected to walk into the Dog and Bicycle cafe on Thursday to find a dozen police officers inside.
But they weren’t investigating a crime. Instead, they were just there to meet the public, as part of the new Coffee with a Cop program the Missoula Police Department started earlier in the year.
The goal of Coffee with a Cop is to create an informal place for the public to meet members of the police force and have any questions answered.
After hearing what was going on, Michaels stuck around for a bit to chat with the police.
"I think that oftentimes when people are talking to the cops, it means something has happened. You aren't usually doing it just for fun, over coffee like they did this morning. So it was different, but it was nice,” Michaels said.
Thursday’s event included members from across the department, from Chief Mike Brady and Assistant Chief Scott Hoffman to captains, detectives and patrol officers.
Michaels said she didn’t come prepared with any urgent questions, but liked having a chance to ask some of the officers how long they had worked for the city and what they did during a routine shift.
Detective Bob Franke said he thought it was useful for the public to have more interactions with officers to remind both sides that more than anything, they have calling Missoula home in common.
"I think for the most part, they are just finding out we are normal people," he said. "It's nice to have a neutral site so people can be able to ask a question that's on their mind."
The police department has said it hopes to hold a Coffee with a Cop every other month, and wants to be able to move the event around to different neighborhoods.
Linnea Stanhope, who does project management for the Old Sawmill District, said when they heard about Coffee with a Cop, they invited the department to hold one at the coffee shop.
"It's just nice to get them to come down. We have a new neighborhood that's growing, and a lot of people who are new to the area,” she said. "It's been really busy in here this morning so we're really happy with the turnout."
At one point during the morning, Stanhope left the Dog and Bicycle and walked back to her office next door, forgetting her phone and wallet on the counter. She quickly returned and found it untouched.
“Well I guess I should have known it would be pretty safe here, especially this morning,” she said.