New Middletown police leader holds first ‘Coffee with the Chief’ at Triple Moon

Middletown Police Chief David Birk talks to resident Liz Martin during coffee with the chief Tuesday, Jan. 28 at Triple Moon Coffee on Central Avenue in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

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Middletown Police Chief David Birk talks to resident Liz Martin during coffee with the chief Tuesday, Jan. 28 at Triple Moon Coffee on Central Avenue in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Triple Moon Coffee Company may have been the safest place in Middletown on Tuesday night.

There were several Middletown police officers, a canine officer, administrative staff members and the star of the show, new Police Chief David Birk. It was Birk’s first “Coffee with the Chief” since being promoted late last year to replace Rodney Muterspaw, who retired.

MORE: McCrabb: Birk’s journey moves from CHiPS to Middletown police chief

Birk, 47, said he’s looking forward to holding quarterly “Coffee with the Chief” events as a way to continue promoting community policing in the city, something that Muterspaw implemented and stressed.

“Community relations is so important for Middletown and any department,” said Birk, who was hired as a patrol officer in 1997. “That’s what we are here for. It’s about networking and getting to know the community. They also need to put a face with the police chief. That way they can say, ‘That guy is a person. I had a conversation with him.’”

When residents interact with police outside of an emergency situation, Birk said it shows “we are people and not just officers doing a job.”

He said the department is bringing back its Community Oriented Policing Unit that will put additional police officers into neighborhoods to address, among other issues, the drug epidemic and homelessness in downtown.

A woman who lives in Dublin House on Central Avenue and the owner of the coffee shop believe getting to know the police chief is important because he should be visible and not be an administrator who sits behind his desk.

“I love knowing the police chief,” said Liz Martin, who has lived at Dublin House for 10 years.

She described all her interactions with Middletown police as “positive” and said she has met several officers when she visits the Mid-Pointe Library.

Heather Gibson, owner of Triple Moon, has hosted several community events at her coffee shop. She hopes “Coffee with the Chief”and other pro-police events help “bridge the gap” between law enforcement and residents.

“This is a way for the community to stay in touch with the police and for the police to stay in touch with the community,” Gibson said. “The chief needs to be out in the community and known by the people. That way, if he makes a mistake, people may say, ‘He’s OK. He’s a good guy.’”

Gibson called police and residents working together “a turning point for a community.”

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