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Coffee brews up dialogue between Kingsport police, citizens

Rain Smith • Oct 4, 2018 at 11:21 AM

KINGSPORT — Law enforcement officers and about three dozen citizens came together Wednesday in downtown Kingsport, sharing coffee, bagels, ideas and concerns in an informal, laid-back setting.

The Kingsport Police Department’s first Coffee with a Cop event was held for two hours at Bagel Exchange on West Center Street. Anyone was welcome to stop in and speak with Chief David Quillin, members of his command staff and other officers in an effort to encourage communication and positive interaction between police and the public.

In one corner, a man shared his experience about being pulled over for a traffic violation. As he laughed about nervously trying to decide what to do with his hands — and overanalyzing other actions he should and shouldn’t do — a pair of officers assured him that he handled the situation just fine.

Elsewhere, a man quizzed police about gun laws in Tennessee. Earlier, staff from a new senior living facility stopped in and invited officers to come by the property for a tour, and a member of the PTA asked questions about school zone safety.

“Most of the folks I’ve talked with just came out to share their support for the police department,” said Chief Quillin. “One man was originally from Brooklyn and has lived all over the United States. He expressed his love of Kingsport and was so complimentary of the police department.

“It’s great to hear those things, affirming we get most things right,” added Quillin. “But I always welcome criticism and hard questions.”

Gauging by the laughter and relaxed conversation, there wasn’t much of the latter on Wednesday.

Knot For Sale Hats, a local group that knits caps for the needy, donated headgear for police to distribute and left “thank you” cards for officers. One Kingsport resident came in to express his gratitude to police for being so kind to his son, who was recently involved in a car crash.

Mitzi Busick decided to attend the event after reading about it in the Times News. She said her participation netted one big takeaway about police officers: “Don’t be afraid of them. Help them.”

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