Cops join community for coffee and conversation

  • Easthampton Police Chief Robert Alberti, second from left, talks with motorcyclists Dennis Pike, left, of Southampton, Chip Leighton of Westfield and Todd Banitt, right, of Blandford, during the third annual National Coffee with a Cop Day held at Union Street Bistro & Bakery in Easthampton on Wednesday. The three ride for a nonprofit motorcycle club, COBB, that raises money for several local charities, and Pike said, he “just wanted to let them know that we’re not the bad guys.” STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Troy Hackworth, right, of Easthampton talks with Easthampton Police Chief Robert Alberti during the third annual National Coffee with a Cop Day held at Union Street Bistro & Bakery on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dennis Pike, left, of Southampton talks motorcycles with Easthampton Police Detective Eric Alexander during third annual National Coffee with a Cop Day held at Union Street Bistro & Bakery on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton Police Sgt. Chad Alexander talks with visitors to Union Street Bistro & Bakery for the third annual National Coffee with a Cop Day on Wednesday, which happened to be the 7th birthday for Bhavya Patel, center. Joining them are Bhavya’s sister, Hiya Patel, in background, and her third-grade classmate at Maple School, Silas Kleppinger, right, both 9. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton Police Sgt. Chad Alexander, left, talks with Gabriel Ripley, center, of Easthampton and Trumpy, right, a radio personality for HITS 94.3 WLZX-FM in Northampton, during the third annual National Coffee with a Cop Day held at Union Street Bistro & Bakery on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton Police Sgt. Dennis Scribner helps Ann Malinowski of Easthampton put a lid on her to-go cup at Union Street Bistro & Bakery during the third annual National Coffee with a Cop Day on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 10/4/2018 12:07:30 AM

EASTHAMPTON — On Wednesday morning, a familiar face helped Ann Malinowski get her coffee to go. It wasn’t a barista. It was a cop, Sgt. Dennis Scribner, who was one of several policemen who stopped by Union Street Bistro & Bakery to chat with people on the third annual National Coffee with a Cop Day.

Scribner is somewhat of a regular at these events. So is Malinowski, for that matter. “Honey, I know everything that goes on with the cops — you name it, I know it,” she said, heading out the back door with her walker. “I love the friendly atmosphere, I get to see all my friends and have a conversation with them. What a way to start the day!” 

The concept of police and community getting together over coffee as a means of encouraging communication was first launched in 2011 by the Hawthorne, California, police department. It was recognized by the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services in 2016 when the COPS Office also established the first Wednesday of October as National Coffee with a Cop Day.

But the Easthampton police department was already ahead of the trend, having initiated its own regular Coffee with a Cop event before the retirement of police chief Bruce McMahon in 2016. Officers and citizens get together on the last Thursday of each month with the location of the rotating venue posted on the department’s Facebook page. In the summer, they’ve even met in the evening, according to Sgt. Chad Alexander, who became a familiar face at the local CWAC events when he worked the day shift.

Now working nights, Alexander still made it a point to join Wednesday’s coffee klatch. He says people use the time to ask questions about issues they should actually call about but feel are too minor to bring up over the phone, like a dog that repeatedly barks in the neighborhood. Over coffee, Alexander said, “They’ll say, ‘Well, I don’t want to bug you guys with it — but now that I gotcha, what do I do about it?’ ”

Rachel Tartaglia stopped in with her son, Silas Kleppinger, 9, just after 8 a.m., on their way to school. At the next table over, Deborah Buckley and a few friends enjoyed the complimentary coffee and fresh pastries.

Buckley sees the gatherings with police as a chance for people to have a conversation they wouldn’t otherwise have. “It’s easier one-on-one,” she said. Across the table, Katie Buckley, who says she takes part when her schedule allows, added, “It’s good for the community; it keeps us connected.”

And it can lead to some surprise exchanges.  Dennis Pike of Southampton rides for a national non-profit motorcycle club, COBB, that raises money for several local charities. Dressed in jeans, black cap, and a well-worn black leather jacket with the word "menace" stitched in orange, and sporting a long white beard, he might strike a menacing figure but for the twinkling eyes that lend a forbearance more in line with Santa Claus. After he and two riding buddies had their picture taken with Police Chief Robert Alberti, Pike said that he "just wanted to let them know that we're not the bad guys." 

In this casual setting, Alberti added, “People are much more at ease, and talk to us more freely. I tell everybody, ‘We need the community as much as the community needs us.’”

Kevin Gutting can be reached at kgutting@gazettenet.com.


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