Bellingham Police officers teamed up with
state troopers from the Troop C Community Action outreach team, along
with members of the mounted police and a K-9 officer, for a “Coffee with
a Cop” community policing outreach program. State troopers took their
animals to Dunkin’ Donuts in South Bellingham (next to Charlie’s Tire on
S. Main Street) to join Bellingham’s officers for an outdoor
meet-and-greet on a sunny April morning. The state police had brought
plastic state-trooper hats for the kids. The bomb-sniffing dog, Pippin,
and the two mounted police with their horses got lots of attention from
the crowd of visitors who showed up throughout the morning.
the yellow Lab, with her handler, Scott Irish, drew a lot of interest.
Visitors had questions for Trooper Irish, such as “Does the dog get
scared?” The answer‚ “No, she loves her work.” Irish explained that
since Pippin is a small size for a Labrador Retriever (55 pounds), she
is able to get into tighter spaces to check for possible explosives. He
also explained, “Pippin doesn’t bark when she smells something; she sits
and looks at me‚Äîit’s how we trained her to alert us that she has
smelled something.” He noted that Pippin began life with the “Puppies
Behind Bars” dog-training organization for socializing puppies with
prison inmates (https://www.puppiesbehindbars.com)
. “We get great dogs out of that program,” Irish said.
William Newton and Giuseppi Ciampa had brought their horses to the
event. Newton noted that he grew up on a farm in Norfolk and has been a
trooper the past 16 years. “Being a mounted police officer was something
different for me,” Newton explained. “I grew up around animals and am
the primary caregiver for Amadeus. I feed and groom him and clean out
his stall. Together we patrol state parks, rail trails, and state
beaches. We sometimes get called out for searches in rural areas.
Presently we have seven members of the mounted police, but we will add
to that number in the summer.”
around Pippin, and were a lot more careful around the horses—these are
large animals! After meeting the state troopers and local police
officers, many headed into Dunkin’ Donuts for a treat. Because the
program was held during school vacation week, parents welcomed a free,
kid-friendly event for their children to enjoy.
COVID and a shortage of officers, there aren’t that many opportunities
lately for community outreach,” Daigle said. “This one gives people the
opportunity to speak with officers face to face and, hopefully, develop a
rapport with them so that they don’t feel fearful of police.”
tougher now to do outreach programs like this because of a reduced
workforce,” Daigle explained. “We’re 5 officers short—actually 9 short
from the department’s peak of 33 officers. I still have Len Gosselin and
Doug Houston going into the schools with the DARE program, but we had
to cut the outreach program for seniors.” He said he has 4 officers
attending the police academy who will graduate in October and that, so
far, the shortage of officers hasn’t led to any tragic situations. But
as Daigle pointed out, the population of Bellingham continues to grow.
chief said that even if the funds were available to hire more officers,
he’d likely still have problems filling positions. “Because of the push
for reforms [like efforts to end qualified immunity for police], cops
are wondering where the profession is headed and if they’re going to be
sued,” he said. “It’s dangerous because that may cause hesitation in
He did agree that reform is coming,
saying, “Are all cops angels? No. But for the most part, we have a good
relationship with the people in town; they support us, they drop off
food at the station, etc. The politicians who are crafting these
reforms, however, haven’t been out there on the streets and don’t know
what we’re facing.”
When asked about body and
cruiser cameras, he replied, “Technology costs money. And at this point,
I can’t even get cops, never mind equipment.” He noted that years ago,
they had cameras in the cruisers, but the weather played havoc with
them, causing screens to freeze, low quality, etc.
has been Bellingham’s Chief of Police for over 20 years. When asked if
he had any retirement plans on the horizon, he said he tentatively plans
to stay on for two more years. “I’d like to usher the department
through whatever reforms are coming,” he said, “but you never know what
will happen.” He has been focusing on updating department policies.
with relatively short notice, word about Coffee with a Cop went out
through social media and kept the cops who were hosting the event busy
throughout the morning. Having a sweet cuddly dog who loves to get
patted, along with well-groomed horses to draw even more crowds, added
to the fun.
Well done, Bellingham Police
Department. Thanks for bringing such great law enforcement partners to
town for children and parents to enjoy.