Allen Thomsen walks over to the sea of blue at Meadowlark Coffee, holding a full mug in one hand and his plaid pork-pie hat in the other.
He came by to offer his opinion, the Near South resident said.
“I told the two officers outside I don’t like police.”
Welcome to national Coffee with a Cop Day in Lincoln.
It’s morning rush Wednesday and Thomsen is holding court with Lincoln Police Capt. Michon Morrow, who has her entire first-shift Southwest Team on hand.
Court Cleland is one of that number and he’s also the cop who localized the event for the first time last year with a gathering of officers at Hy-Vee.
“No agenda,” Cleland said. “It’s a laid-back way to meet the public. See if people have questions, talk to them.”
This year, LaMar's Donuts offered to host events at its two Lincoln locations, he said, and Meadowlark stepped up to be a third.
I stepped up because the free doughnut sounded good. (Note to readers: I bought my own.)
And the coffee sounded good. (Note to readers: I brought my own.)
And I was hoping to hear the concerns and kudos from community members interested in chatting with their law enforcement neighbors.
I heard a few.
From Thomsen, who came in peace and softened his stance (never call the cops) as the conversation proceeded.
And from the woman in a lavender jacket who shared the story of the mysterious speeding car on her short street with an officer, who wrote down the details in a spiral-bound notebook.
And the coffee drinker with the Big Gulp mug who recognized Ed Simpson, the patrol cop in charge of the Lincoln Youth Football league’s Police team back when her son was playing.
How old was he now?
The Big Gulp woman also had a tip that she shared with Simpson and Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister: A man who makes regular (and speedy) visits to a Porta-Potty in a local park. (Drug drop? Who knows? They’d check it out.)
Over at the downtown LaMar’s, officers Sara Genoways and Chassidy Jackson-Goodwin handed out cool stickers to kids and posed for selfies.
One customer even got a hug. (“Kiss a Cop” day is coming up next month, said Jackson-Goodwin’s husband, John.)
Police academy trainees showed up in blue polos and khakis. “Because recruits need free doughnuts,” Jackson-Goodwin said.
Some customers came for the free sugar and caffeine; over at the other LaMar’s, Rita Bennett had a dual purpose: to pick up doughnuts for the office and to give the police a shoutout.
“Just to thank them,” she said. “Let them know that what they do matters.”
Coffee with Cops lasted two hours, cops came and cops went.
Morrow shared her philosophy with the man in the pork-pie hat — “We really want to be part of the conversation, to wrap our arms around each other.”
There was no hug, but Thomsen left Meadowlark happy.
“This is a good deal,” he said. “I didn’t realize the whole police force would be here.”
And although it did feel a bit like Cops having Coffee with Cops over on South Street — and my chocolate cream-filled long john could have used a touch more cream — the morning was a success.
It was also a wee bit of a surprise for customers such as Stephanie Ahlschwede.
“Wow, I knew you were coming, but I panicked when I saw the parking lot,” she said, walking past a sea of squad cars on her way into Meadowlark for her morning caffeine.
“All of you, thank you so much.”