Coffee with a Cop: ‘No agenda or speeches’ in Nutley
By Owen Proctor, The Record
Original article HERE
Armed with pastries and morning brew, Nutley cops greeted citizens on Wednesday at the DaVinci Bakery on Centre Street.
It marked the kickoff of the Nutley Police Department’s Coffee with a Cop program, offering a chance for officers and residents to have conversations about community policing. About 30 citizens intermingled with nine police officers during the hour and a half.
According to the initiative’s website, the Hawthorne, Cal., Police Department started Coffee with a Cop in 2011 as a way to interact with its citizens. In the social media age, it gives citizens and cops face-time at the same table.
“The program started nationally and is picking up around the state,” Nutley Police Chief Thomas Strumolo said. “It’s a great opportunity to interact with the community.”
The local event promised, “No agenda or speeches.”
“I like this opportunity,” resident Jackie Elsmore said. “Anytime you deal with the police, usually it’s for something negative. This is a positive thing, and we give them our feedback.”
One of Elsmore’s feedbacks: Route 21 is like the autobahn at rush hour. Another resident asked about recent police activity on part of Franklin Avenue. Another noted finding some men sitting on his front steps.
“We can’t be everywhere,” Stumolo told an attendee. “We need your eyes and ears.”
Gregg Burdulis said that traffic laws have changed since he became a licensed driver in 1980. He asked Capt. John Rhein whether he should stop for a school bus with its yellow flashers on.
The yellow flashers mean slow down and use caution, said Rhein. When the bus driver puts out the stop sign, then you stop, he noted.
He also told Burdulis to beware of solicitors without permits and advised him to get on a “Do Not Knock” registry.
Suspects knock on doors and ring doorbells to check to see whether someone’s home. If a resident doesn’t answer, they will presume no one’s there and burglarize the home. Others will distract residents as co-conspirators rob the home, in what are called diversion burglaries.
Rhein, a 37-year member of the force, talked to resident Will Malle about the current affairs in policing. “Don’t judge me because of a bad cop in Florida,” he said.
The captain noted the incredible amount of training officers go through to avoid firing their gun. Training simulators present cops with similar scenarios but with one major difference. One may have a suspect holding a firearm; another has the suspect holding a newspaper. Police have to make a split-second decision to shoot or not to shoot, he said.
At the end of the day, he wants to come home to his family, observed Rhein.
Strumolo said that he hopes to host Coffee with a Cop every other month or quarterly. It goes hand-in-hand with the department’s other outreach efforts, such as Neighborhood Watch, Public Safety Night, Law Enforcement Against Drugs, senior citizen forums, children’s bicycle rodeos and child ID programs.