Chief John Phoennik hosts ‘Coffee with the Cops’
South Fayette police chief John Phoennik believes communication is key to good relations between his 17-member force and the 15,000 people who live in the township.
So, armed with coffee and orange juice, the first-year chief sat down Aug. 14 at the McDonald’s restaurant on Washington Pike to hear what residents think. A handful of township residents showed up to support and talk with him.
“Twenty-two percent of the people say their anxiety goes up when they see cops,” Phoennik said. “This is just another way to open up the lines of communication. We’re here to provide a public service and to show the department is accessible.”
Starting next month, Phoennik will visit with 5 percent of township residents who contacted the police department in August to see if they were satisfied with how his department responded. For example, if there were 100 calls in August, Phoennik will follow up with five of them at random.
“We will absorb the feedback, as well as the questions, comments and concerns and implement changes,” Phoennik said.
Paul Alter of McDonald stopped by to say hello to the chief. While he did not have anything specific to discuss with Phoennik, Alter said it was important to him lend his support.
“I like what they do,” he said.
DeAnn Baxter of McDonald said she came to meet Phoennik and to learn more about the township.
“I moved here three years ago,” she said.
Phoennik said he plans to hold more informal gatherings, like the Aug. 14, every other month. He said he would like to have one in October in the evening and in the Sturgeon section of the township
“We’re opening up the lines of communication,” he said. “And we’re being accessible to the people who pay our salaries.”
South Fayette is not the only police department to have coffee with the community they serve. Peters Township police have been holding similar meetings for residents the second Friday each month at McDonald’s on Route 19. Coffee With The Cops is part of a national initiative by the U.S. Department of Justice and is now taking place in 41 states. These informal gatherings allow residents to share their concerns, offer suggestions and get to know the members of the police force.