Officers from the Warwick Police Department’s Community Services Division enjoyed a low-key morning sitting and chatting with members of the public who wandered into the McDonald’s at 770 Post Road as the city participated for the first time in the company’s National Coffee with a Cop Day.
“It’s a nice thing to do,” said John Benson, area supervisor for McDonald’s, on the meetup. It’s nice to get the cops in here to meet with the community and be seen.” Benson said that there were about a dozen stores in his region – southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island – participating in the event.
Officers who participated included Captain Ryan Sornberger, Officer Mark Jandreau, Officer Matt Moretti, Officer Jill Marshall and Lieutenant Michael Lima. All of the officers are members of the community policing division, which specializes in community outreach and integrating themselves as actively visible members of the public.
The hot topic of the day, besides the coffee, was the ongoing filming of the A&E reality series Live PD and the experiences officers have had during the shows taping.
Officers all had nothing but positive things to say about the show, particularly the camera crews that follow them and catalogue their activity throughout the city.
“They’re incredibly professional,” said Officer Marshall, adding that it was most impressive to her how the multiple camera operators know how to avoid getting into each other’s shots, and are particularly aware of avoiding capturing children on camera.
Officers also categorically denied that the presence of a camera crew hampers their abilities to conduct their duties. Officer Moretti equated it to essentially having a body camera following them around. He said the most difficult part of being part of the show is remembering to provide a spoken monologue of what actions he is taking and why he is taking them.
As for whether or not the camera crews have difficulty with the physical nature of the job, the answer was a resounding ‘no.’
“They’re in better shape than we are,” joked Captain Sornberger.
The officers mentioned there have been no significant instances where people have gotten belligerent due to the presence of the cameras, nor have there been many instances where people have done things to try and get on television.
Sornberger and Moretti spoke about the situation involving Narragansett Town Council President and Congressional Rep. David Cicilline’s sister, Susan Cicilline-Buonanno, who was pulled over by Moretti during a broadcast of the show in August under suspicion of impaired driving. Cicilline-Buonanno passed Moretti’s field sobriety tests and was sent on her way, which prompted an uproar in social media circles saying she was given special treatment due to her political position.
Sornberger said that neither Moretti nor himself, who watches the 15-minute delayed, truly live feed from the cameras during their broadcasts, knew who Cicilline-Buonanno was at the time of the traffic stop and that she didn’t identify herself as someone of political importance either, so there was no possibility of special treatment by Moretti.
Sornberger added that if she had mentioned her name, they would have proceeded the same way in terms of the impaired driving suspicion, but would have asked to cut the live feed off as they understand the potential repercussions of a public person being broadcast on live television in such a situation.
“It also goes to show that we don’t just arrest everyone,” Moretti added. “We’re trained to do a complete investigation.”
Live PD will continue following the Warwick Police Department until November 17, at which point Sornberger said it will be at the discretion of the police department and the city whether or not they will wish to proceed with the show.
While Wednesday morning was an admittedly tough time for people to gather due to their work schedules, Benson and officers agreed that another meetup would be held on Saturday, Oct. 27 to allow more people the opportunity to greet the officers and ask any questions they like.
“Coffee is more than just your favorite morning beverage, it’s a connector, a culture, a community builder,” a release promoting the event states. “The partnership between McDonald’s and local law enforcement is focused on building relationships with the community – one cup at a time. And all customers and community members that attend Coffee with a Cop events will receive a free small cup of McCafe coffee, courtesy of your local McDonald’s.”
“The mission of Coffee with a Cop is to break down the barriers between police officers and the citizens they serve,” the release continues. “Taking time to meet at a neutral location, like a local McDonald’s restaurant, provides the opportunity for real conversations about issues that matter. It’s about cops, coffee, community, and conversation.”