On March 14, Beverly Hills Police Department Sgt. Jeff Newman was one of more than a dozen police officers, residents and elected officials who gathered at Upper Crust Pizzeria, 243 S. Beverly Drive, for the department’s first Pizza with Patrol.
The department has hosted similar events for years as part of its community outreach efforts, including the long-running Coffee with a Cop. But Newman doesn’t drink coffee, so when he became the head of the Community Relations Unit, he wanted to find a new way to engage the community he is charged with protecting.
“I said, ‘Come on, we need to have some other events on the calendar here,’” Newman said.
Seeking shelter from the rain outside, the attendees inside the pizza parlor mingled, laughed at photos and ate slices of fresh pie on Pi Day.
Such events allow residents to learn more about the people behind the badge, and allow police officers to learn more about residents’ needs, Newman said.
“I think investing in the community makes them invest in us, because they know we’re not an occupying army. We’re here to enforce the law equitably,” he said.
Councilwoman Sharona Nazarian attended and said she was glad to support the department’s efforts to strengthen its ties with the community.
“It’s a great opportunity for our community to come together and get to know our wonderful BHPD officers,” she said.
Shawn Shenefield, owner of Upper Crust Pizzeria, said that when the department asked if he was interested in hosting the pizza party, he didn’t have to think before saying yes.
“It was a no brainer,” he said. While events like Pizza with Patrol and Coffee with a Cop are mainly focused on building strong relationships between police officers and residents, they also help the department attract new recruits, Newman said.
Newman’s father was a law enforcement officer, and he was inspired to pursue a police career after listening to his father’s stories about all the ways he was able to help others while on the job. Giving residents the chance to speak with officers and hear about their experiences might motivate them the way Newman was by his father, he said.
“This job is very rewarding. Every day you make a difference in somebody’s life, usually for the best, and that’s something that kind of drives people to it,” Newman said.
The department also offers the Citizen Police Academy. Over the course of the eight-week program, residents visit BHPD headquarters twice a week, meet officers from the K-9 and SWAT teams, participate in ride-alongs and learn more about different types of police work, Newman said.
Resident Sherry Tedeschi, who completed the Citizen Police Academy, said the experience “was totally amazing.”
Tedeschi, who was raised in Beverly Hills, said the department has increased its outreach efforts in recent years, and it shows.
“Residents have a chance to talk to them and ask questions and see how they work,” she said. “They really care about their people.”
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