GREAT FALLS — Some of the best discussions happen over coffee, even when they involve serious topics of conversation. Periodically, the Great Falls Police Department hosts 'Coffee with a Cop.' For the latest installment, they chose Monday, the 22nd anniversary of 9-11, to team up with city leaders and other emergency responders and interact with the public.
At Electric City Coffee, they met with a variety of community members ranging from curious kids to inquiring public minds.
“We can talk about what’s concerning the community. Sometimes we can talk about how the football game went. Or, how is the hunting, how is the fishing, how are those things,” said Great Falls Police Chief Jeff Newton. “It's just a way for a sit down and a lot of times you can solve a lot of things just talking over a cup of coffee.”
“A lot of times the officers or firemen are not available at the stations due to running calls and the call load. So that makes it tough for anybody to ask a question,” said Great Falls Fire Rescue Deputy Chief of EMS Jeremy Virts. “But if you have a kind of an informal event like this set up, it puts everybody in a better situation to ask questions.”
Monday’s event fell on the 22nd anniversary of 9-11, which also represents the ten-year anniversary of the swearing in of Great Falls Police Department officer Aaron McAdam.
“It was just a really exciting day to say, ‘Yes, I will serve our country on 9-11' and remembering what that means and what that will mean for the future, and what I can do serving our city,” said McAdam. “It was it was a really special day.”
Chief Jeff Newton says a day like 9-11 reinforces the pride he takes in his job but goes much deeper than that.
“Its not just that event. I remember all of that and the respect that I have not only for first responders or military veterans and the families that dealt with that tragedy,” said Newton. “So that's why I remember it.”
Chief Newton says the same pride resonates across departments in Montana, a big state that’s more like a small town.
“What we find out is we have to rely on each other. I rely heavily on Sheriff Slaughter and the Cascade County Sheriff's Office, we’re a team,” said Newton. “I rely heavily on other police departments in the state. I rely heavily on other chiefs in the state because we have to communicate because they're just simply isn’t enough for us.”
Chief Newton says as the years go by, he finds more and more of his newer recruits were very young at the time of the 9-11 attacks. He says the department doesn’t talk about it everyday, but on the anniversary, it’s important to understand how the events of that day impacted the future.
“It comes down to the remembrance of what happened in our past so we don't repeat that,” said Newton. “When we have that anniversary, we remind each other you were maybe just a baby when this happened, but this had a significant impact on our country and changes.”
Virts has served as both a police officer and a firefighter. While 9-11 was more than two decades ago and happened across the country, it’s a reminder to never forget.
“You tend to get caught up in the hubbub of the day. The schedules never get slimmer,” said Virts. “So between calls or administrative duties, there's always stuff to do. But the reminder of that day is always fresh in everybody's head.”
There is no set date for the next ‘Coffee with a Cop’ event, but organizers expect to hold one in a few weeks at another location.