When law enforcement invites a neighborhood to have "Coffee with a Cop," and more cops show up than residents, you may have a community outreach problem.
Kern County Sheriff's Cmdr. Tyson Davis coordinated Friday's event at Rocket Shop Cafe in southeast Bakersfield, which drew about 10 students from Golden Valley High School, but few adults from the neighborhood.
Davis acknowledged the 8 to 10 a.m. get-together did not generate the response he was hoping for. But he's not throwing in the towel.
"It's not going to discourage me," Davis said as he sat at a table in the coffee shop on South Union Avenue.
"This is an evolving process," he said. This is a good platform for us. The sheriff's office believes in community policing."
The "Coffee with a Cop" events -- the first was held in Oildale last March -- are designed to bring area residents together with law enforcement to discuss neighborhood concerns and foster better understanding and cooperation between residents and sheriff's deputies.
Organizers hope by meeting deputies and other sheriff's department employees face to face, people will see they are human, too -- that they are members of the community who share many of the same issues and concerns as their neighbors.
And a closer bond between police and everyday people furthers understanding and encourages more communication.
That appeared to be happening Friday between the students and the men and women wearing badges.
"You guys are here to protect us. So we should be on the same page," 17-year-old Golden Valley junior Mariah Morrow told Senior Deputies Ryan Dunbier and David Norris.
The students were there researching local law enforcement policies and procedures regarding the use of force. Some of the students have been studying the case of David Sal Silva, who died in May 2013 following a confrontation with several deputies, California Highway Patrol officers and a police dog.
Norris and Dunbier emphasized there are two sides to every story, and the public doesn't always hear the full story from social media or traditional media sources. Deputies also asked the students to consider the myriad and often stressful situations peace officers are placed in.
"My No. 1 goal at every call I go to is to get out of there alive so I can go home to my family," Norris told the group.
Another student, Vanessa Gomez, 17, commented on how perspective can color one's views.
"We see different sides," she told the deputies. "You see one thing. We see another."
At least one event attendee came from a neighborhood nowhere close to the city's southeast. Felice P. Durazo heard about the outreach effort from a neighbor in southwest Bakersfield and came to hear what deputies had to say.
Durazo and scores of residents of two neighborhoods, The Oaks and Haggin Oaks, have begun using Nextdoor.com, a free private social network and mobile phone app for urban neighborhoods that allows residents to easily communicate with an entire subdivision regarding recent break-ins, suspicious vehicles and myriad other nuggets of information.
Although the website has many other uses besides crime prevention, Durazo said it is ike an online Neighborhood Watch.
Durazo said outreach into neighborhoods by law enforcement is a great idea.
But organizers will have to think about scheduling them when people in the neighborhoods are not at work.
"If you want people to come," she said, "you have to do this when it's convenient."