Albuquerque, NM – Early Saturday morning, on September 15, 2018, Susan and Ron Kirkpatrick arrived at the Albuquerque Police Department’s Northwest Area Command with supplies to prepare breakfast. Susan Kirkpatrick, Director of Public Affairs for the Albuquerque New Mexico North Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and her husband and assistant, Ron, both wanted to express appreciation to local police officers for their service to the community.
So the Kirkpatricks, assisted by some members of the Church from the Cibola Ward, served thick French toast filled with cream cheese, a variety of toppings, an egg and green chile casserole, and orange juice to drink. As Susan Kirkpatrick explained, the purpose of the breakfast was “to show gratitude to the first responders” in the city of Albuquerque. It was a way to say “thank you” to hard-working officers who risked their lives to help make the area a more peaceful and safe place to live.
The breakfast was inspired by some faith leaders from other denominations who held “Coffee with a Cop” events. These faith leaders encouraged community members to meet with local police officers over coffee at local venues to get to know each other better and to discuss solutions for various problems and challenges in the area. The Kirkpatricks decided it could also be of value to organize a breakfast for the officers at their own substation.
Norma Endres, one of the police officers present, enjoyed the breakfast. She was a firefighter for ten years in the neighboring city of Rio Rancho before she became a police officer for APD. She has now been working as a police officer for about ten years and likes her job. She spoke of both the perception that some people have of officers and the reality. Sometimes people think that officers exist “to make your day worse.” However, the reality is that “they would not be doing it if they didn’t have the heart for it.” She explained, “You need to be able to put others first.”
Officer Endres also commented on the way some people behave towards her and her colleagues. She explained that at times she is not treated well and “some people like to blame everything that goes wrong on officers.” On the other hand, she also interacts with many people who are very respectful to her and her coworkers. She said, “I hardly ever pay for a cup of coffee; people in line before or after me usually offer to pay. We don’t solicit or ask for it. It is very meaningful.”
The Kirkpatricks, who enjoy expressing appreciation to police officers in the community, also organized another breakfast on Friday, July 29, 2016. They were assisted by members of the Albuquerque New Mexico North Stake, and this breakfast was at the APD Valley Area Command, one of six commands in the city. Each area command includes between about 80 and 120 officers, led by a commander, and is organized to better serve specific areas in Albuquerque.
The officers were equally grateful for the gesture of appreciation. As Susan Kirkpatrick pointed out, such experiences help “build relationships with others.” They facilitate better understanding and communication, so that in casual interactions as well as genuine emergencies, officers and community members can assist one another in a congenial and effective manner.
Commander Donovan Olvera, currently head of the APD Northwest Area Command, encourages a positive relationship between police officers and the community. He explained, “It is important for those involved with law enforcement as well as citizens to get together, to have common communication, and to address problems collectively.” He said officers “are committed to increasing the quality of life for every citizen,” and regular interaction with community members can help this happen more effectively.
Events such as “Appreciation Breakfasts” not only express gratitude to police officers who contribute so much to the community, but they can also open doors to greater understanding and solidarity between officers and citizens. They can potentially bring about stronger relationships, increased trust, and ultimately more harmony in society.