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Boba and Badges: How police are using tea to build bridges with community

on September 28, 2019

You may have heard of “Coffee with a Cop,” or its summer version, “Chill with a Cop,” which involves ice cream in an effort to sweeten relations and foster dialogue between police and the community.

On Friday, the Richmond Police Department updated their menu when they hosted “Boba and Badges,” serving the popular Taiwanese drink made with “bubbles” of tapioca,   in an informal community event at the Pacific East Mall.

Designed to invite local residents to ask questions, voice concerns, and get to know the officers in their neighborhood, the event demonstrates the department’s ongoing efforts to build positive relationships between officers and city residents. 

Interim Police Chief Bisa French talks with a group of Richmond teens.

“I think this is a great event because we are able to connect with people in the community [and] they’re able to talk with us in a way where it’s very low-key,” Michelle Milam, Crime Presentation Manager at the Richmond Police Department, told Richmond Confidential.

“They’re with their kids and their families . . . Maybe they can ask questions that they don’t feel comfortable asking at a meeting,” Milam said. 

“Police come when it’s the worst day of someone’s life,” said the Richmond native. “It’s important for us to build public trust [and] to connect in times that aren’t a crisis so that we can work together.” 

Lieutenant Matthew Stonebraker said events like Boba and Badges are part of Richmond’s broader “strategic plan” to “bridge the gap” between local residents and officers. 

“This is something we try to do on a monthly basis just to try and get the community out here, engaging with police officers,” Stonebraker added. 

These forums provide an opportunity for community members to “talk about issues in their neighborhoods,” Stonebraker said, “as well as possible solutions.” 

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