WESTFIELD, NJ – Law enforcement officers in this town have cooked up an even saucier version of “Coffee with a Cop,” a national initiative to bring law enforcement officers and community members together for conversations that build trust between police departments and the public they serve.
The Westfield Police Department announced it has partnered with Outta Hand Pizza for an evening during which the public is encouraged to stop by the pizzeria for a slice and soda compliments of the police department.
At "Pizza with the Police," Members of the public can meet police officers, ask questions and discuss concerns at the event, police said. Westfield-based BBD Rythm & Blues Band will provide music, police said.
"I do not want our police officers to only be known for their law enforcement role in the community," said Chief Chris Battiloro on Monday. "I would like for us to be known as people first."
For Outta Hand restaurateur Burim Regjaj, who recently earned top pie in a YMCA contest for the best slice, hosting the community gathering is the latest in a series community initiatives, which have included bringing meals to veterans in need and lending a hand to families impacted by the federal government shutdown.
Battiloro, who enjoys the occasional buffalo slice at Outta Hand, began discussing the initiative with Regjaj, following the abrupt departure of the prior chief last August, something which may have weakened trust between local law enforcement and police, Regjaj said. “It seemed that there was a gap after the ousting of the former chief,” he said.
Battiloro anticipates the event at Outta Hand will be among a series through which the department can strengthen relationships with community members.
"Pizza with the Police is the first such event of its kind that we have held," he said. "But it will be the first of what will be many."
“Pizza with the Police” will be held Thursday, May 2, from 4 – 6 p.m. at Outta Hand Pizza, 311 South Avenue West, in Westfield. To mark it on your Facebook calendar, visit the event page. For more information, call Westfield Police at 908-789-6040.
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh