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Staff photo by Sabrina Bodon / Mapco Express staff members enjoy coffee with Chattanooga Police Deputy Chief Eric Tucker, center.

A regular morning for some people means running inside the local gas station for their wake-up coffee. Hoping to bridge the gap that can exist between police and the communities they represent, Mapco decided to use that daily ritual as an opportunity.

On Oct. 2, the Mapco off Lee Highway offered community members free coffee and an informal atmosphere where they could connect with the officers who serve their area over a shared cup of joe.

Kyle Berry, district manager of Mapco stations in the Brainerd, Ooltewah and Cleveland areas, reached out to the Chattanooga Police Department about hosting the event on National Coffee with a Cop Day. Officers across Chattanooga joined in at several other Mapco locations.

The initiative started in California and has inspired community gatherings around the world, according to the Coffee with a Cop nonprofit.

Chattanooga Police Deputy Chief Eric Tucker estimates he's been to about five similar events in the last few years. In 2016, the department launched a similar program.

"Sometimes it's just getting to know each other; sometimes people come to express their thoughts on things going on in the community," Tucker said. "It's a way for the police and the community to connect and just talk with us to get to know us."

Danna Vaughn, the department's assistant chief of department and community development, joined Tucker in spending the morning speaking with Mapco staff and community members. She made the point that the people walking through to get their morning coffee at 8 a.m. are normally regulars.

"I hope that it allows us to form a stronger relationship with the community, because I'm sure some of these customers that come in and out of here this time of day come in every morning," said Vaughn. "[Community members] see familiar faces behind the counter, and we want to be a familiar face to them as well."

Email Sabrina Bodon at sbodon@timesfreepress.com.

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