MANCHESTER, NH – It’s not really about the coffee.
Although McDonald’s has broadened its coffee horizons to include a vast selection of McCafé beverages, this week it was all about the coffee talk– in particular, creating a welcoming atmosphere centered on building community, for something more than a jolt of caffeine on the go.
On Thursday the McDonald’s on South Willow Street was the safest place in town – that, according to Assistant Chief Ryan Grant, who was one of several police officers – including Chief Carlo Capano – swilling coffee and ready to field questions in part-two of this week’s Coffee with a Cop double-header.
Coffee with a Cop is part of a national initiative to create public spaces where people can communicate with cops outside the line of duty. Manchester officers were on hand at the Second Street McDonald’s on Nov. 27, and the South Willow Street restaurant on Nov. 29. Both restaurants are operated by Michael Gambino, who also operates the Hanover Street McDonald’s.
Gambino has been hosting Coffee with a Cop events at his McDonald’s restaurants for the past four years.
“It’s a great event and allows people to get to know the officers in a comfortable setting, outside of the police department,” Gambino said.
Gambino acknowledged the past several years have been difficult for businesses in the city, including his own, due to fallout from the opioid crisis. Between a depleted workforce, people panhandling outside of businesses or having drug-related emergencies in public restrooms, it’s necessary to have a solid working relationship with city police.
“Manchester Police have been a great partner – they’ve given us great support as a business. I can’t say enough about them, and we’re thrilled to do anything we can to support them,” Gambino said.
Among those who made a special trip Thursday to interact with the officers was Loretta Crenshaw of Easter Seals, who normally takes clients to the Brown Avenue McDonald’s for some daily social interaction.
“I heard about this and wanted to come and meet the officers,” Crenshaw said, who was about to step outside with Brian Trembley to greet Valor, Manchester’s veteran police horse who’s valiantly returned to his beat, after suffering an illness last fall that resulted in the loss of his right eye.
Tiffany Lewis also came for the event, specifically to speak to Chief Carlo Capano about some concerns she had over a negative interaction with an officer.
Lewis explained that she’s recently relocated back to Manchester from New York, and was stuck in some traffic connected to a recent marathon, which included road closures.
“An officer came at me aggressively and did some mansplaining to me – he talked down to me as I was trying to navigate the traffic in my car,” Lewis said.
In her frustration she used some salty language – not toward the officer, but as punctuation to her confusion over which way to go. She said she felt like the officer, instead of “lecturing” her on her word choice, could have simply directed her around the barriers.
“I was out with my mom and we saw runners trying to get from one side of the street to the other. There were cop cars on one side of the street, but it wasn’t blocked. I really didn’t know if it was related to the marathon, or if it was an accident scene. I inched along slowly and at the intersection of Second and Hancock I came upon an officer, who basically flipped out at me. I wanted to let him know I was confused about the traffic pattern, and what I said was, ‘What the f— is going on?’ I have a habit of swearing when I’m frustrated,” Lewis said, with an air of confession.
“Instead of helping me find my way around the blockades, he gave me a lecture on swearing. He was talking down to me, and I’m sure he would not have done the same if I were a man,” Lewis said.
Afterward, she posted about the incident on her Facebook page and many of her female friends encouraged her to write down her concerns and share them with the chief.
“Instead, I thought I’d come talk to him about it,” Lewis said. “And I’m really glad I did. I feel like Chief Capano listened to me. He took my story seriously, and he was respectful about it. He said he felt awful that I had a negative experience and reinforced that officers should be mindful of how they interact with the public. He also said he wouldn’t want his wife or mother to be treated like that,” Lewis said.
Her main beef was the aggression she felt coming from the officer, even before she opened her mouth. She was caught in a traffic situation she didn’t anticipate and felt her word choice shouldn’t have been the officer’s main focus.
“In that moment I felt fearful of the officer. My initial reaction was to roll up my window and not engage, and it made me think that this must be what people of color feel like when an officer approaches them in an aggressive manner. I thought this rogue cop could wreck my life if I do or say something he doesn’t like,” Lewis said. “I didn’t think it was appropriate for him to come at a 51-year-old woman who was just trying to get through an intersection as he did. It was a confusing situation to begin with, but that made it worse for me.”
Lewis said she would consider revisiting the scenario with Chief Capano again, perhaps suggesting some community workshops to help ease tensions and bridge gaps for those who, like her, have concerns.
“I just might do that,” Lewis said. “I’m glad I came.”
If your business is interested in hosting a Coffee with a Cop event contact Lt. Brian O’Keefe at BOKEEFE@manchesternh.gov.