Support for police on display at Middletown coffee shop

Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw accepts a $2,500 check from Triple Moon Coffee Shop co-owner Heather Gibson. The money will be used to purchase a protective vest for Bear, a canine officer.
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Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw accepts a $2,500 check from Triple Moon Coffee Shop co-owner Heather Gibson. The money will be used to purchase a protective vest for Bear, a canine officer.

Those protesting against police officers — sometimes with cause — should have been in the Triple Moon Coffee Shop last week.

Eight Middletown police officers and dispatchers passed out Halloween candy to costumed children, showing a much sweeter side to law enforcement than what has been portrayed by some groups. When they take off their uniforms, badges and weapons, police officers are regular folks, like me and you.

As children walked from table to table asking cops for candy, the Middletown Division of Police received its own treat, a gift from the community and owners of the popular coffee shop. Co-owner Heather Gibson collected $827 from customers who wanted to purchase a protective vest for the police department’s newest canine, Bear.

After that money was raised, Gibson, 47, a 1987 Monroe High School graduate, donated another $1,700 and presented Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw a check for $2,500, the cost of a vest.

“This is awesome,” a surprised Muterspaw told the crowd.

Later, Muterspaw, who has been critical of police officers who use unnecessary force, sometimes deadly, said nights like “Candy with a Cop” allow residents to see officers differently.

“It shows the amount of support Middletown has for its police department,” he said. “It just shows that we are building something really good here.”

Muterspaw believes the department’s canines, just like their human partners, should be equipped with the best safety equipment. Canines typically cost about $8,000 and their training is expensive. The department wants to protect that investment, Muterspaw said.

“People forget the dog is one of our officers,” he said. “They go to the calls, they respond, they help. That dog having a vest is huge. Look around the country. Police dogs are getting shot.”

So far this year, 29 canine officers have died, according to the Officers Down Memorial. Of those, seven were shot and one stabbed. Canine officers being killed in the line of duty has steadily increased recently. There were 18 deaths in 2013, 20 in 2014 and 27 last year, according to the memorial.

Middletown officer Marco Caito brought his German shepherd Aki, who was wearing his vest, to Triple Moon last week. Caito said the vest gives his dog “an extra sense of security” and may save his life if he encounters a violent criminal.

“At least I’m not sending him in on a suicide mission,” Caito said. “It (the vest) buys officers time if their dog is attacked.”

Gibson said she met canine officers and their partners during a Broad Street Bash event over Fourth of July, and she and her two sons, Hobie, 9, and Eli, 5, instantly connected with them. She was hoping to add a drive-through window on her coffee shop this year, and when that was delayed, she decided to fund a canine, not caffeine.

Later, she was asked about how some officers around the country have been treated on the heels of violence.

“It’s a shame our society has gotten to this point,” she said. “We need to support our officers. It saddens me that we’re always looking for people to blame. There is no respect whatsoever. They just want to go home at the end of the day. Sure, they make mistakes. We all do. We want perfect in an imperfect world.”

At least for one night, inside a downtown coffee shop, everything seemed perfect.

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