Young and old meet for 3rd Coffee with a Cop

By Michael Roknick, The Sharon Herald
Original article HERE

Young and old meet for 3rd Coffee with a Cop

With his badge pinned to his chest and sporting a police sergeant’s uniform, Cason Connelly had all the trappings of a law enforcement standout.

But one thing was holding him back from the real thing. At age 6, Cason will have to wait until his 21st birthday before he can apply for the job.

Cason was among scores of area residents who attended Coffee with a Cop Saturday morning at Breakfast at Tiffany’s in Sharpsville. It was the third such event in the Shenango Valley.

The concept has a simple goal: give community members a chance to talk over a cup of joe with members of their local police departments.

Sharpsville police Chief Chris Hosa and Sharon Chief Gerry Smith have been the guiding force behind the local get-togethers. Previous gatherings were held at Donna’s Diner and Coney Island restaurants in Sharon and another is being planned for May.

Started in California in 2011, Coffee with a Cop has spread across the country as a way for residents and police to get to know each other.

Both Hosa and Smith said the informal gatherings are a two-way street.

“It allows members of the community to get to know us, and for us to keep in touch with the community,” Hosa said.

An added benefit is that the gatherings give young people a chance to see if they want to join their local men and women in blue.

Cason’s mom and stepdad, Laura and Josh Sonney, were with him on Saturday. Josh Sonney, 31, served seven years in the Air Force and is now attending the police academy at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

“I’m graduating in May, and when I do I want to be in a police force,” he said.

Smith was glad to hear it. A decade ago when a post opened up on the Sharon force, he said, a hundred people would sign up to take the entrance exam.

“We have an opening now and all we have are five applicants. It’s hard to find people who want to be in law enforcement.”

In addition to meeting the people they protect and serve and to finding potential recruits for their ranks, the breakfast gatherings also have proven to be a morale booster for local police.

“People come up to us and thank us for what we do,” Hosa said. “The majority say how much they love the service we give.”

That includes some things that have nothing to do with criminal activity. Residents often call police on issues ranging from civil disputes to seeking advice on marital woes.

“We’re not equipped to handle these types of things,” Hosa said. “But we can at least point them in the right direction to get answers.”