By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
John and Christine Bry were catching up on a few things Thursday morning with their former neighbor, Tom McQuillen.
“We were just talking about the people who had bought his house and we wanted to know how he was doing. We miss his kids,” Christine Bry said of McQuillen.
The Brys, who live in Ocean View, were out walking on the Promenade in Sea Isle City when they saw McQuillen and started talking.
McQuillen, Sea Isle’s police chief, was with his fellow officers at Spinners Pizza, Ice Cream & Grill at the Spinnaker condominiums for one of his department’s informal “Coffee With a Cop” monthly get-togethers.
McQuillen, who became chief in 2018, has made community outreach one of his top priorities as he looks to build closer ties between the police department and local residents. Coffee With a Cop is considered a valuable part of that strategy.
“We encourage our officers to come out. They’re meeting with our business owners, residents and guests. They’re developing new relationships and strengthening the existing ones,” McQuillen explained.
Coffee With a Cop is pretty much a freewheeling exchange that lets residents talk to police about virtually anything, whether it’s harmless, get-to-know-you chit-chat, serious matters they want to discuss or simply to give the officers a pat on the back.
“I think they’re doing a good job. I have a lot of trust in him to take good care of the community,” Christine Bry said of McQuillen and the police department.
For two hours Thursday, officers shared conversation, a cup of coffee and refreshments with members of the public at Spinners Pizza.
One of the people who stopped by to talk to the officers was Josephine Conte, the 78-year-old mother of Sea Isle police Lt. Steve Conte. Josephine Conte said she doesn’t like it when she hears criticism of police officers.
“They’re great,” she said of Sea Isle’s officers and the job they do to help and protect the public.
Conte’s husband, Vincent, is a retired New York City cop. Now her son is continuing the family tradition of being in law enforcement.
“It’s in their genes,” she said, laughing.
This was Sea Isle’s third Coffee With a Cop since the pandemic temporarily forced the police department to cancel the meet-and-greets earlier in the year. McQuillen, who noted that the sessions have been well-received by the public, expressed confidence that they will create more trust between the officers and the local community.
“I think it just makes it easier for us as we go around and meet with the businesses and see different people,” he said. “You’re kind of building those relationships.”
Sean and Katherine Burns, who live in Huntingdon Valley, Pa., and have a summer home in Sea Isle, had nothing but praise for the police department.
“We are very pleased with how they handle things. They’re all very respectful – always,” Sean Burns said.
A cup of coffee in hand, Joan Sudall also spoke of how respectful the officers are toward her. She said they even call her “ma’am.”
“Their hearts are in it. You can always tell,” said Sudall, a resident of Plymouth Meeting, Pa., and summer homeowner in Sea Isle.
For more information about the Sea Isle City Police Department or to learn about future Coffee with a Cop sessions, follow the SICPD on Facebook or visit their homepage at www.seaislecitynj.us.