South Fayette Police Chief John Phoennik is looking to brew up conversation with residents by adding a new blend of bimonthly java jam sessions.
To broaden communication with residents and businesses, Chief Phoennik plans to have one-hour meet-and-greets called “Coffee with the Chief.” The first one will be Aug. 14.
“It goes back to the old fashioned way of policing,” Chief Phoennik said. “We’re all relaxed, sitting around a cup of joe, talking about concerns and answering questions.”
Chief Phoennik began to see the value of in-person conversation since his days as a DARE officer and spending years visiting with homeowners associations.
“I want people to see that we are out in the community and are accessible,” he said.
The chief was inspired by a similar program in California called “Coffee with Cops.” He noted recent statistics that state 22 percent of Americans are afraid of law enforcement. Chief Phoennik said he wants to reduce anxiety and build trust.
Although he doesn’t feel this is an issue in South Fayette, he still thinks the concept will help break down barriers. “Either way, I would be doing this. Communication is the wave of the future.”
Mr Phoennik said this is a genuine attempt to better serve residents.
“South Fayette is good community with great people,” he said. “I really believe it is what we need to do for the people who pay our salaries.” The chief plans to convey any ideas or concerns raised at the meetings to his staff.
“The township manager and the commissioners are very supportive of the police department and their effort to enhance communication with the public,” said community development director Andrea Iglar. “I think it’s a great way to really connect with the public and show that we are open to resident opinions and feedback.”
The first meeting will be from 10 to 11 a.m. Aug. 14 in McDonald’s, 3023 Washington Pike. Chief Phoennik plans to hold meetings all around the township at different times. The next will be in October in the Sturgeon section of the township.
Amy Philips-Haller, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.