Chile’s national police are implementing their own ‘Coffee With a Cop’ campaign signing a contract with Starbucks to have three police officers in each of the country’s 120 stores for two hours once per month in order improve public trust in the government institution.
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As part of the state security apparatus, carabineros, once helped torture, kill and prosecute its own citizens during the Augusto Pinochet military dictatorship (1973-1990), they had partly recuperated their image over the last couple of decades. By 2017, while still quite violent, carabineros were considered the least corrupt security force in Latin America. But in March of last year at least 70 of its rank and file were found guilty of illicit association and money laundering of up to US$38 million.
By February 2018 public distrust of the carabineros rose to 48 percent, 17 percent higher than the previous year, according to a Camden survey.
The state security force is hoping to overcome distrust and to gain people’s confidence by making themselves available to chat at local Starbucks throughout the country.
The national police communications coordinator, Major Diego Rojas, told local media "we saw that people did not see us up close. Citizens talk to the police when there is a crime when there is little space (to talk)."
The carabineros and Starbucks launched a pilot program last July stationing two police officers in three capital stores in Santiago for two hours each day. Rojas said the experiment went well.
Santiago’s mayor, Claudio Orrego, added: "there will be two or three police officers and a captain (at the coffee shops). They’ll be in uniform talking to people. "
The national security force decided to work with Starbucks because: "It’s a big chain that worked with the US police. In addition, it is in different communities, (and) it has a wide-ranging clientele."
Juan Pablo Riveros, marketing manager for Starbucks Chile, said in a statement: "Our specific role in this program will be to provide the best place for these important meetings to occur. These will be made in all our stores in Chile, once a month, on a fixed schedule." Riveros added, "We believe that these kinds of instances are very important for everyone, we are inviting the community to talk, and that for us is the most relevant."
However, the Director of Advertising at the University Diego Portales, Cristian Leporati, told local media the initiative misses the mark.
"This is wrong. In general, people with a greater amount of prejudice against the Carabineros, .. are not those who generally go to Starbucks." Leporati added, "It is a huge marketing mistake to not segment the target audience well. I see it as a performance to make a by-product, like generating images of them talking to people."
Last Thursday on the International Day of the Disappeared, carabineros prevented hundreds of families of the disappeared during the dictatorship from reaching the presidential palace in Santiago to place pictures of their loved ones.
The ‘Coffee With A Cop’ campaign in the United States began in 2011 in Hawthorne, California with the same intention of building trust between cops and citizens who were more often saw the police as hurting rather than helping the city.