PITTSBURG, Calif. – Pittsburg police Sgt. Cassandra Simental has issued a public invitation to join her for a meal if you see her dining alone.
Simental grew up locally and is a 15-year veteran of the Pittsburg (California) Police Department. She used her personal Facebook page to post a message on her thoughts of being a police officer and eating alone, reported East County Today.
The message has since gone viral on social media after a co-worker spotted the message and asked if the police department could share it on their department social media pages.
“It was not planned,” says Simental. “I was just sitting there in Togo’s and the thought after 15-years of doing this work and eating alone, you never get used to it. If I was not at work, I would not be eating alone. I like the interaction when I eat. I was sitting there one day, I see people come in, leave, there is lack of interaction and I am thinking why is there a lack of interaction between community and law enforcement. I wanted to humanize the badge a little bit to let people know we are human and also like positive interactions.”
She noted that interaction between the police and pubic is usually intense due to the circumstances. Neither side really gets to experience the other, but she indicated it doesn’t need to be that way all the time.
“I think the post was more trying to humanize the badge a bit and make people realize we are human. Police officers are wives, husbands, parents, and members of the community,” explained Simental. “We are human and positive words such as a simple hello remind us why we do what we do.”
Consequently, Simental says, she has received favorable feedback. She is glad her message is getting out for law enforcement officers across the country.
“It’s been all positive, I am a little overwhelmed by it by seeing all the comments on our police department and its alarming. We do have a lot of community support that maybe officers don’t see enough of,” said Simental. “The public maybe is reluctant to approach us because maybe we look standoffish or how our posture may look. It goes both ways. But I want people not to be hesitant in approaching me, so that is why I posted it. I think officers are hyper vigilant and look safety conscious. We also lose the human side of things or connection with people because of what we deal with each day.”
It’s provided opportunities that take her out of her comfort zone. Some of her favorite locations include Togo’s, Chipotle or The New Mecca Café.
“As an officer, you are often taken out of your comfort zone. It’s what we do. But I think it’s also important to take ourselves out of the negativity and see the positive support. Talk to people in a non-stressful way. I’ve been thinking about it more and how we can better connect with the community,” said Simental. “The next time I am eating alone and if I see someone eating alone I am going to pull up a chair and ask if I can join them and just talk. Everyone has a story.”
She enjoys hearing about people and life stories, struggles, accomplishments, travels and cultures. She admits she is generally interested in people and what they have gone through.
Sgt. Simental is the first “female sergeant” in the police department, yet doesn’t like being labeled that way.
“I don’t like to bring gender into the role of police sergeant, but there is a sense of accomplishment that comes with it that if you work hard it will pay off and anything is possible,” says Simental.
Simental says her post was only the beginning and that she will find more ways to engage with the community in the future because everyone is human and enjoy positive interactions.
(Photo courtesy Pittsburg Police Department Facebook page)