The midmorning rush at Kaladi Brothers Coffee in downtown Anchorage was busier than usual Wednesday. The coffee shop was packed with about a dozen members of the Anchorage Police Department, including Chief Chris Tolley. They were there for Coffee with a Cop, Tolley’s new effort to allow civilians to connect with cops on a personal level.

“They’re getting to know the police department a lot better and our officers are feeling the support from the community,” Tolley said. “And that’s so important.”

The program started in April and has had two events since, including Wednesday. Tolley said it is “proactive” police work because it allows officers to meet the people they protect in a positive environment before they meet them in a negative one. He also said it can help the officers find reliable contacts in their patrol areas.

“Once something does happen, it’s really great to gather information from those trusted sources,” he said.

One 22-year veteran of the department said it is refreshing to get to know people in a stress-free environment.

“It’s a comfortable, casual conversation,” said Sgt. Denise Rollins. “People can bring up any topic they want and then we’re able to talk to them one-on-one and take that opportunity to explain or to clarify anything they don’t necessarily understand about police work.”

Rollins joined a variety of officers at Kaladi’s Wednesday, including those that patrol the downtown area on bikes. There was also Odie, the electronics-sniffing dog from APD’s cyber crime unit.

“I’m really glad they brought the dog,” said Eagle River resident Myranda Walso, adding she wanted the young people in her family to better understand what police do on a daily basis. “[Police] have helped my family out and one of the biggest problems we had is the kids are afraid of them. My husband and I want to make sure that our kids know from a young age that police officers are there for their safety.”

Coffee with a Cop is held in different parts of the Municipality of Anchorage during the third week of each month. The next event will be at Jitters coffee shop in Eagle River on Wednesday, July 20.

Both APD and the APD Employee Association post about upcoming Coffee with a Cop events on their social media pages.

KTVA 11’s Eric Ruble can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated the next event would be on Thursday, July 21. This has since been amended.