Vilas County Sheriff greets customers, children during first Coffee With a Cop in Land O' LakesSubmitted: 09/13/2017
Lane Kimble
Lane Kimble
Assistant News Director

Vilas County Sheriff greets customers, children during first Coffee With a Cop in Land O' Lakes
LAND O' LAKES - The regular crowd at the Pine Cone Cafe in Land O' Lakes got the same treatment as usual Wednesday-- service with a smile.

"I want to make it comfortable for everybody," owner Dawn Whitney said.

But Whitney also opened her door to some folks who don't routinely visit.

"They weren't hungry yet, but we'll get them to eat before they leave," Whitney said with a laugh.

Vilas County Sheriff Joe Fath and a Lac Vieux Desert Tribal Police lieutenant were busy talking instead of eating. Whitney and nearby Bel-Air Motel owner Bob Hughes brought the idea of "coffee with a cop" to Fath.

"Many people will call the police out and probably never get time to thank them or at least to meet them," Hughes said.

Fath didn't expect to get any case-specific tips from the laid-back breakfast crowd during his first attempt at a meet and greet session. Instead, he hoped to build relationships with the people he's in charge of protecting.

"Can be just a little easier for them to open up and ask specific things that they have an interest in," Fath said. "People sometimes only hear tidbits or read something in the paper and they don't understand the full scope of it, so it's very helpful to try to present the whole picture."

Some of those people he talked to also included a much younger crowd. About 40 Land O' Lakes Elementary students packed the small cafe to meet the officers, opting for hot chocolate over coffee.

"That's a pretty exciting day on your second week of school," principal Carie Brock said.

Brock says students go through plenty of drills and practice for emergencies in the first few weeks, so meeting police in person outside of class helps settle any nerves.

"Being a small town in a small community, they're kind of raised by the community too, so people help them figure out manners and respecting adults and kind of following the rules," Brock said.

Whitney, whose two sons are police officers, thinks respect learned at a young age will go a long way for these kids in the future.

"Not be afraid to ask them anything," Whitney said. "[I want] little kids to know that the cops are the good people."

Fostering that level of respect could help Fath to offer a service that, after Wednesday, should be pretty easy to smile about.

"Anybody we can develop that rapport with and help is a success, as far as I'm concerned," Fath said.

Fath would like to hold similar events all around the county. Whitney says she'll invite the officers back each year.

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