Coffee with a 1st First Responder

On Wednesday, April 5th, 2023, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., the Southeast New Mexico College Criminal Justice Program hosted Coffee with a 1st Responder in partnership with the Carlsbad Police Department, Carlsbad Fire Department, Eddy County Fire, and Rescue, The Eddy County Sheriff Department, and the New Mexico State Police Department. The event was held in room 101 at 1500 University Drive and units were set up in the front parking area of the campus. Coffee was provided by Devon Energy and Donuts were provided by Albertsons Market. Dr. Karima Mourhat is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Southeast New Mexico College under the Department of Social Sciences. She has taught a variety of classes including Criminal Law, Criminal Course and Procedure, and American Law Enforcement. She is also a board member of the Carlsbad Police Department Citizens Advisory Board. When asked about the purpose of putting together this event, she said, “It’s very essential for the criminal justice program to partner with the criminal justice institutions, including the courts, law enforcement, and corrections. The goal of Coffee with A 1st Responder is to break down the barriers between police officers and the community, to build a relationship by fostering both dialogue and positive interactions to improve trust.”

Rick Wiedenmann is a Professor of Biology and Chair of the Science and Engineering Department. He also has taught a variety of courses including Environmental Sciences, Anatomy, and Physiology. He is the president of the Carlsbad Police Department Citizens Advisory Board. Professor Wiedenmann stated that “Typically, first interactions with first responders are unfortunately a negative experience. Whether it is with a police officer pulling you over, an EMT taking you to the hospital, or a firefighter coming to your house for the first time because there is an accident. The goal of this event is to encourage discussion between students and first responders in a positive environment. We hope that they see them as people instead of simply their titles. When you start to see first responders as real people, and you are able to sit down with them for a cup of coffee and relax, it will encourage positive dialogue and help break the stigma behind their image, and that’s the goal.”

Professor Wiedenmann and Dr. Mourhat both organized the event as a collaboration between the City of Carlsbad Police Department Citizen Advisory Board and the Criminal Justice Program. Both professors hoped that from this event, students would not only be able to hold discussions with first responders and foster a sense of understanding towards the field, but also be motivated to join the field as well. In doing so, not only would they help Carlsbad as a community to grow, but also help create the next generation of first responders.

Dr. Mourhat explained that “this event opens doors for interactions outside the crisis situation that typically would bring together officers and community members. So I hope that it would encourage communication and positive discussions between law enforcement and students. My teaching philosophy is centered on combining theory with practice. My students already had the opportunity to meet and learn from police officers because I invited guest speakers to my classes to discuss different topics in criminal justice, especially American Law Enforcement. So I think this event brought criminal justice students and police officers, again over coffee to not just discuss issues and the criminal justice system, but even more, it gave criminal justice students the opportunity, especially the ones that are interested in becoming police officers, to get all their questions about the profession answered by the police officers and also build a connection with future employers, such as the Sheriff's department and Carlsbad Police Department.”

During the discussion, Professor Wiedenmann emphasized his hope for a "win-win" situation, in which the college, the students, and the agencies would all benefit. He explained that the students would have the opportunity to see first responders as people and engage with them over a cup of coffee, which could help them develop a better understanding of the field. It would also provide the agencies with a chance to recruit potential candidates for law enforcement. For students who were undecided about their major, meeting first responders could potentially inspire them to consider a career in law enforcement and spark discussions and questions. This increased interaction between the students and the agencies could raise the chances of recruitment and help build a bridge between the public and first responders, such as law enforcement and the fire department.

Dr. Mourhat expressed gratitude to the president of the college, Dr. Kevin Beardmore, and the Social Sciences Department Chair, Dr. Jalal Hamedi, for their support in organizing the events. Professor Wiedenmann and Dr. Mourhat both thanked the first responders who partnered in the event, including the Carlsbad Police Department, Carlsbad Fire Department, Eddy County Fire, and Rescue, The Eddy County Sheriff Department, and the New Mexico State Police Department. Devon Energy and Albertsons Market were also recognized for sponsoring the event by providing coffee and donuts.