Richmond cop and shopkeeper share special bond

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Richmond cop and shopkeeper share special bond
Photo courtesy of the Richmond Police Department.

By Mike Kinney

A Richmond police officer and a popular local shopkeeper are setting the example of what “community policing” can mean.

Richmond police Officer Steve Purcell routinely starts his day by drinking coffee at Shop and Save Liquors at S. 15th Street and Cutting Boulevard with the store’s owner, also named “Steve.”

The shopkeeper is a Richmond legend. Not only has Steve owned a business in the city for 34 years, “he’s never missed a day of work,” according to the Richmond Police Department.

“He has a sense of humor,” Officer Purcell said. “He tells everyone he is 99 years old.”

Steve’s actual name is Mugali Hagais, and in fact many of his customers, including Officer Purcell, affectionately call him “Pops.” He is an immigrant from Yemen who launched a successful business and family in Richmond.

The shopkeeper’s relationship with the officer has an interesting twist. When Officer Purcell befriended “Pops,” he wasn’t aware that his father, retired RPD Officer Steve Purcell, Sr., had also befriended him in the early 90s. The younger officer didn’t know his father and the shopkeeper were friends until later on in their relationship.

“His family and my family have been friends for years,” Officer Purcell said.

No matter how the friendships began, the RPD described a regular cup of coffee between a cop and local business owner as a model of community policing that is known to increase public safety. Under this model, officers are encouraged to form relationships with members of the community so that they can work together to solve problems at the neighborhood level.

“Pops” and Officer Purcell joke that neither is retiring until the other retires first. The shopkeeper’s family works at the store, and the hope is kids will take over.

If Pops doesn’t hear from Officer Purcell for a period of time, he will call to check on the officer. When needed, the officer will help Pops decipher paperwork and regulations of doing business in Richmond.

“He stresses the importance of being one with the community,” Officer Purcell said. “He is such a sincere person. He will not let someone go hungry. He is a good soul.”

Officer Purcell said one cannot be an effective police officer by sitting in a car all day.

“You have to be in the community and really get to know the residents in the neighborhood,” he said.