Community Outreach Spotlight

Cooking with Cops

Submitted by Captain Sean Hebbon of the Franklin Township Police Department in Somerset, New Jersey.

An outdoor picture of a group of young adults in the Cooking With Cops program

Early in the pandemic, agencies found creative ways to minimize manpower and physical contact with the public. The Franklin Township Police Department (FTPD) in Somerset, New Jersey, had similar challenges but also a vision to fulfill. The agency was in a transition to new leadership focused on building a trusting and productive relationship with the community.

Franklin Township Director of Public Safety Quovella Maeweather wanted to enhance the department’s small community policing footprint and make a lasting impact. Through that vision, the FTPD’s Community Relations Bureau (CRB) was born in September 2020. The CRB is a hub of programs and initiatives that allow FTPD officers and the community to engage in activities together, serving as an example nationwide.

Cooking with Cops was one of the first programs launched through the CRB as a result of Detective Altwain “Al” Burwell’s passion for cooking. During the seven-week course, students learn kitchen safety, food preparation and proper storage, and various cooking methods.

Detective Burwell’s class rapidly gained popularity among students and parents in the township. Students prepare their full-course meals and take the finished products home to share with their families. Meals include chicken francaise, chicken and waffles, steak, vegetable medley, salad, and macaroni and cheese.

A picture of a group of young adults working in a kitchen.

Community members, grocery stores, and organizations began making donations to sponsor food for the classes, which truly made Cooking with Cops a community affair.

More important than developing culinary skills is the time that Detective Burwell uses in the kitchen to talk to students about their life choices, discuss the law enforcement career, and even help them resolve issues or conflicts they encounter in their lives.

The success of Cooking with Cops caught the attention of the owner of a top-rated restaurant in Somerset. Impressed with the skills gained, he wanted to get involved with the program. With this partnership, students attend their last class at the restaurant and work alongside professional chefs to create meals that they serve to their invited guests.

According to Director Maeweather, “Detective Burwell and his Cooking with Cops program is a true example of the police serving the community. These programs ... offer our community’s youth support, mentorship, and skills to build confidence while fostering a stronger relationship between our police department and our community for years to come.”

Cooking with Cops joins a growing list of the FTPD CRB’s free programs that unite law enforcement and the community. Other programs include youth functional fitness training, reading, basketball, biking, a citizen’s academy, and a women’s self-defense class.

To find out more about the Franklin Township Police Department and its community-based efforts, please visit