There was an overwhelming police presence outside Higher Grounds late Tuesday morning. Their comportment suggested they weren’t there responding to a mob hit job, thankfully. They were standing there schmoozing among themselves. Ingleside Captain Jack Hart was just leaving the scene and fortunately was able to stop and explain what was going on.
Every month the ten police captains from all districts in the city, three commanders and the deputy chief meet for breakfast at a neighborhood spot. It’s a way of having personal face-to-face interaction and exchanges while being present in all parts of the city. In this intimate setting they can discuss neighborhood matters and share successful experiences that can be replicated, or those which should be avoided.
This time, for the second year in a row, they met a Higher Grounds. Manhal Jweinat, proprieter, closed the cafe from ten till noon to accommodate them. With eighteen in attendance, every seat in the house was taken.
In addition to the police brass, a special guest is invited. Today it was Dan Homsey of the Neighborhood Empowerment Network (NEN). It’s “an alliance of residents, neighborhood and merchant associations, nonprofits and faith-based organizations…that work to support communities achieve true resilience.” It’s created a “suite of tools to advance resilience at the community level with a grassroots approach.” (Quoted from the NEN website.) The event allowed a sharing of best practices in community relations and outreach.
On any random day, Captain Hart might be spotted at Higher Grounds getting his caffeine fix. “Glen Park is a showcase of a mixed residential and transit hub neighborhood,” he said.
After the confab, Jweinat resumed his daily routine, as if he hadn’t just made eighteen orders all by himself. When asked what kinds of dishes the police liked, he looked up: “Let’s see, there were two chicken delights, a Tuscan, a curry, an omelet, a two-egg, a scramble, one over easy, one pesto…” Then he consulted his list: “two puttanescas, three French toasts, an Italian and one bagel.”