Elyria police hold Coffee with a Cop

By Keith Reynolds, The Morning Journal
Original article HERE

Elyria police Chief Duane Whitely speaks with a patron Oct. 17, 2017, at McDonald’s, 595 Broad St. Whitely and police Capt. Christopher Costantino were on hand to discuss a variety of topics with diners during the Police Department’s fourth installment of “Coffee With A Cop.”

McDonald’s in downtown Elyria was filled with the smell of coffee and the sound of conversation the morning of Oct. 17 as the Elyria Police Department held its fourth Coffee with a Cop.

Elyria police Chief Duane Whitely and Capt. Christopher Costantino wandered around the dining room, 595 Broad St., interacting with patrons.

Between bites of Egg McMuffins and sips of coffee, the assembled discussed everything from sports to the plans for new school buildings in the city.

Whitely highlighted the event’s ability to connect officers with their community.

“(It) creates better community police relations,” he said. “(It) makes them feel more comfortable talking to the police in a non threatening situation. It’s really, completely, a public service.”

According to Whitely, the Police Department is trying to make interactions between citizens and their officers less standoffish.

“We want to work with the community,” he said. “And we’ve heard over the years that people are hesitant to come talk to us, for what reason I’m not sure.

“But this puts it in a very non threatening, not intimidating situation where they can come up and pretty much talk about anything, minus investigations.”

The event is held every third Tuesday of the month and has garnered great crowds at each, Whitely said.

It’s good that the event is proving successful, because Whitely said the relationship between the officers and the citizens is important for them to do their job.

“The bottom line is: any police department is only going to be as good as the community and how they work together,” Whitely said. “We’re at about 80 officers right now for a community of 54,000, so the percentage is low.

“But if we can work with the community and they can work with us, our percentage of being able to take care of problems goes up.”

Costantino reaffirmed what Whitely said and highlighted the common ground that can be found between parties with informal talks.

“We may not agree, but we can sit down and agree to disagree, and I think we can all get something out of it,” he said. “Sometimes people don’t realize why we do the things we do.

“This gives us an opportunity to explain it. Sometimes we don’t understand how perceive the things we do, and it is a good educational forum for us to get a better understanding and to gauge people in the community on what they feel is important. Communication is an extremely important thing.”

Bob Clarke, 68, of North Ridgeville, was reading a newspaper and drinking coffee when Whitely strolled over and took a seat with him.

Despite his Cleveland Browns sweatshirt, Clarke said he and the chief eschewed sports talk to discuss what is going on with the Police Department.

“I just asked him about how things have been changing in the police world in the last five to 10 years,” he said. “I never worked as a policeman, but I did a lot of stuff outside, with bailiffs and stuff like that.

“It takes plenty of gumption for a bunch of guys to get together like that, that’s for sure.”