Dozens of Honolulu police officers have spent the last two days guzzling coffee with citizens and talking about their concerns as part of a new program that aims to rebuild community trust.

The conversations were wide-ranging and touched on everything from jaywalking and obeying the speed limit to worries about how the department addresses officer misconduct and an ongoing federal investigation into Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha.

Officer Jason Boquer-Wintjen, who organized the “Coffee With A Cop” sessions, said no topic was off limits so long as it didn’t involve sensitive matters about ongoing investigations or police tactics.

Honolulu Police Officer Jason Boqeur-Wintjen, left, wants to repair HPD's relationship with the community one cup of coffee at a time.

Honolulu Police Officer Jason Boqeur-Wintjen, left, wants to improve the HPD’s relationship with the community, one cup of coffee at a time.

Nick Grube/Civil Beat

He also said it was important to give citizens access to street-level officers, rather than the top brass, so that they would get a better sense of the day-to-day life of a cop.

“A cup of coffee removes the barrier of perception a person may have about law enforcement,” Boquer-Wintjen said. “It provides an opportunity for the two of us to sit down on the same level — us being the cops and the community — and discuss anything. There’s no agenda. There are no speeches. There are no dumb questions.”

Coffee With A Cop is part of a national program backed by the U.S. Department of Justice that aims is to put citizens in touch with the individual officers they might encounter on the street to answer questions and build relationships.

Before this week, Hawaii was the only state that had not taken part in the Coffee With A Cop program.

Boquer-Wintjen said that as the program matures, he hopes it will result in positive changes at the Honolulu Police Department. Honesty is an important foundation for trust, he says, and much of that begins with being transparent.

“Without transparency we’re not going to be able to maintain trust,” Boquer-Wintjen said. “There’s going to always be that doubt. What are they hiding? And that needs to disappear. No longer should we be telling the media no comment.”

More events are expected to be scheduled in the coming months at various locations around Oahu, Boquer-Wintjen said. This week’s sessions took place at a McDonald’s in Mililani and a Starbucks off Ward Avenue near downtown Honolulu.

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