Christmas-minded chief

Reading to kids is latest way Grafton police leader has department reaching out to community

GRAFTON POLICE CHIEF Jeff Caponera read “The Cop’s Night Before Christmas” to youngsters viewing the show online during a Cocoa with a Cop event on Dec. 19 in the police station lobby, which was decorated by the Grafton Area Chamber of Commerce. The show was one of several initiatives taken by Caponera to help facilitate community relations with his department. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press Staff

Grafton Police Chief Jeff Caponera has taken several holiday initiatives to help the community interact with department officers, something he says should be promoted every day.

“We want our community to recognize us as part of the community. We refer to our residents as neighbors, and that is one of the aspects I want people to understand,” Caponera said.

“We want to be as involved as we can. It’s important for us to give back.”

On Dec. 19, the department held a live-streamed event, Cocoa with a Cop, during which Caponera read the children’s book “The Cop’s Night Before Christmas” by Michael D. Harrison in the police station lobby. The lobby was decorated by the Grafton Area Chamber of Commerce.

Caponera began the tradition when he was the police chief of the City of Anna, Texas. He said he wants to continue reading to youngsters throughout the year.

“I want to be active in the schools and talk to the kids several times a year,” he said.

Although there were no children present at the station during the story time, he said the online event was able to broaden the viewership outside of Grafton.

“It would have been nice to have some kiddos around to enjoy that time with us. At the same time, we ended up getting a broader reach because people were able to view it and watch it over and over and share it with people outside of the Grafton community,” he said.

Caponera said he also wants to expand the department’s Coffee with a Cop program and hold get-togethers once a month with residents.

Throughout December, the department is forgiving winter parking tickets if drivers donate a canned good to Family Sharing of Ozaukee County. Caponera said there have been 46 citations issued as of Monday, Dec. 28, and the amount of donations have exceeded the violations.

“We haven’t gone through the final numbers yet. The goal is to encourage people, even those who didn’t get a ticket, to donate and volunteer for a noble cause,” he said, noting citations that are issued by Dec. 31 can be forgiven until Jan. 15.  

“It makes you feel good, and there is a trickle-down effect so everyone is involved,” Caponera said.

The department also gave residents a  chance to have their Christmas packages dropped off at the station to avoid porch-pirate thefts. This year, about six families participated in the program, and Caponera hopes more will join in the tradition in the years to come.

“It wasn’t as successful as I thought it would be this year, but to me, that was about half a dozen families who we were able to help from getting their packages stolen,” he said.

Caponera said he plans to hold more events in the future to facilitate the community relationship with officers. This year has been a trying time for police, and he wants the public to know they are all on the same team.

“Policing has always been about building trust, and that is our goal every day. We want take our bank of public trust and make deposits daily,” Caponera said.

“I think there is a segment of the community that has lost its trust and faith in police, and we need to find ways to reach a common ground.”

Caponera was sworn in as Grafton chief in September, replacing longtime chief Charles Wenten, who retired in 2019.

In his first year as chief, Caponera said, he wants to continue assessing the department’s day-to-day operations and make changes as needed.

“I’ll try to figure what needs to be improved and what doesn’t need to be improved. I’m a person who believes if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” he said.

“But if it needs to be fixed, let’s work on it and get it done because you want to want to run an efficient police department.”

Caponera said his goal is for the community to find commonalities with his officers.

“We want to be a model for everybody, and that’s our whole goal. We’re in this community just as much as you are, and we want to make a difference,” he said.

“We want the community to see us as human and not just interact with us as a police officer.”



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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