Upper Darby cops swarm restaurant -- to chat up customers

Posted: April 18, 2014

Wawas weren't the only places to get free coffee on Wednesday.

The Upper Darby Police Department hosted its first "Coffee with a Cop" event at the McDonald's on State Road and Landsdowne Avenue, where residents were invited to sit down over a cup of Joe and chat.

"I loved it," said Jerry Karalis, 35, a morning regular at McDonald's, adding he believes police are doing a "fantastic job."

Jazzmyn Pruett leaned back as far as she could go to get a photo of Police Superintendent Michael J. Chitwood flanked by her daughters Brandi, 8, and Jordyn, 6, as they sat across from her in the booth.

"It's a good thing for them to know a cop from the neighborhood," said Pruett. Jordyn, who wants to be a police officer, was especially excited about the event.

She wasn't the only one.

The noise level exceeded that of even the most-raucous birthday party with the clamor of a bus-load of kids from Step by Step Learning Center and Child Care who arrived to talk with officers and pose for photos.

Chitwood said he got the idea for the coffee klatch after learning about a national initiative. Around month ago he approached the McDonald's to serve as host. McDonald's said 'yes,' and picked up the tab.

The first "Coffee with a Cop" event was held by the Hawthorne, Calif., Police Department. That idea picked up steam after an article was published in COPS Dispatch, a trade magazine.

Now departments from San Diego to Portland, Maine - about 175 cities and towns in 36 states - have invited community residents for coffee. Two events have been held in the Allentown area.

"It's great," said Tom Judge, chief administrative officer for the township. "It shows the community not to have a fear of police officers.

Around the room visitors and police chatted away. Some police officers telling a little bit about themselves and listening to what was on the mind of residents.

The officers did more than drink coffee.

Capt. Dave Madonna even tried his hand as a cashier.

"That was a lot of pressure," Madonna joked as he finished his first sale under the watchful eye of Manager Agnes McCullough and employee Jenna Joyce.

"He didn't screw it up," McCullough said approvingly.

McCullough said the store passed out about 60 free cups of coffee and-or refills.

It wasn't only coffee that participants walked away with. The police came armed with plastic souvenir badges, cop "baseball cards" and even a few -shirts as giveaways.

Both Chitwood and Judge want to continue with a few more "Coffee with a Cop" events across the township. After that, they said, they may adjust the menu.

Up on the horizon for summer - ice cream socials.

mschaefer@phillynews.com

610-313-8111

@MariSchaefer

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