Oct. 05--WILKES-BARRE -- McDonald's was packed with police Wednesday morning during the breakfast rush.
But they weren't there to make a bust.
It was all about community outreach.
"Coffee with a Cop" is a national event held annually Oct. 4. This is the second year that the Wilkes-Barre Police Department took part, but it's the first time they've joined forces with McDonald's.
Chief Marcella Lendacky said the partnership made the event far easier to plan than last year's, when city police set up shop in a parking lot at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Butler Street.
"It's just one less thing on my plate," Lendacky laughed.
Pat Stella, owner of the McDonald's franchise on East Northampton Street, said she was interested in hosting the event as a way of expressing gratitude to police.
"These guys and gals are here to protect us," Stella said. "It's our way of saying thanks."
Part of that thanks came by way of free coffee for a year for the officers who took part, along with cake and a free small coffee for everyone who stopped by.
And Wilkes-Barre City Police weren't the only ones at McDonald's.
Troopers from the State Police barracks in Wyoming, Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tony George and Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis were all on hand to show their support.
Some of the members of law enforcement even helped out at the restaurant, with some hopping behind the counter while others took a turn at manning the drive-thru window.
Mayor George believes "Coffee with a Cop" lets residents see police have the same concern as them: safety.
"It brings the residents and the police together," George said. "It lets the residents see the police are great, and it lets the police see the residents are great."
Patrolman Robert Collins, community policing officer for Wilkes-Barre, said this sort of interaction with the community is vital.
"We want to show the people we care," Collins said. "We're here for their best interests; sometimes it's hard to communicate that."
Collins said Wilkes-Barre Police attempt to connect with the community in other ways as well.
He helps run the Explorer Post, a class for mostly high school-age children aiming to make police work exciting, along with a basketball club.
"It's about teaching these kids to do the right thing," he said. "We want them to be strong enough to make their own decisions."
McDonald's officials already have next year's "Coffee with a Cop" booked, and they're considering pushing it to the afternoon so parents could bring their kids after school.
(c)2017 The Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.)
Visit The Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) at www.timesleader.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
© Tribune Content Agency, source Regional News