Featured Story – 2nd Place
– By Kaitlin Irwin, Delaware County Magazine
It’s easy to see police officers as intimidating authorities that spend their days issuing speeding tickets. Yeadon is fortunate enough to have a police department that values community, integrity, and fairness. Each officer in the unit holds themselves responsible for understanding and serving the needs of Yeadonites, as well as educating them about personal safety, crime prevention, and more.
The Yeadon Police Department may have been established 125 years ago, but it continues to identify present-day issues and priorities. These include protecting and preserving the community, improving the quality of life for all residents, maintaining order, and recognizing and resolving problems within the neighborhood.
So, while the officers do focus on catching the bad guys, they also make it a point to bring out the positive in the community through events, discussions, and a wide range of initiatives. In the past couple of years, Chief Anthony “Chachi” Paparo and the rest of the force have made conscious efforts to become involved in the day-to-day lives of Yeadon residents, from young kids to older adults.
One of the Police Department’s initiatives is the Citizens Police Academy. Earlier this year, the Department held a free nine-week program for Yeadon residents. Each week, participants gained greater insight into what it takes to be a police officer. Activities included confidence- building and self-discipline exercises and lessons on developing a teamwork mindset. Individuals also learned about the physical fitness requirements for the real police academy while also gaining personal security skills.
This program is great for cadets and soon-to-be officers or even dedicated residents with a heart for justice. It also gives the police a chance to have honest and direct dialogue with citizens. This is just one of the ways to build stronger, more positive relationships between the public and the police department. At the end of the nine-week program, an official graduation ceremony was held to recognize the participants.
There is also an Annual Youth Police Academy open to 9th-12th graders at William Penn School District. The program offers an opportunity for local youth to get a better idea of how the Department operates and the officers’ commitment to the neighborhood. The Youth Police Academy should be starting up again soon.
The Yeadon Police Department has a soft spot for the kids in the area. Fostering positive interactions between youngsters and officers ensures a healthier and safer community for everyone. Throughout the year, the officers make it a point to engage with the kids in Yeadon to instill a sense of purpose, self-respect, and communication.
In the past, a couple of officers visited Evans Elementary School to read to the kids and speak about personal and public safety. Seeing the men in blue sitting down and reading Dr. Seuss, it’s easier for children to remember that the police officers are there to help, not frighten. Bringing that human aspect into the classroom and beyond makes a world of difference. The officers make it a point to engage in activities like this throughout the year. For instance, some of them spoke to local Cub Scouts while others got together with youth and staff at the Yeadon Education Athletic Association. These moments help to open up lines of communication and change perceptions.
Sometimes these interactions aren’t planned, as was the case with a part-time officer who struck up a conversation with a schoolkid and joined him in a game of basketball. The officer noticed that the school’s basketball hoops didn’t have any nets, so he took it upon himself to purchase and install some. What followed was a wonderful display of civic duty and good-hearted fun as the kids joined the officer in a game of ball while teachers cheered from the sidelines.
Building trust between Yeadon’s youth and the Police Department is crucial. By proactively meeting kids where they’re at and establishing healthy connections, it can result in better outcomes for everyone. Another good example of this is the Police Chief for a Day Contest, which was open to students at the William Penn School District. To enter, students had to take a photo of themselves doing something good for their neighborhood. The contest was a fun way to encourage positive action and contribution.
Humor might not be the first thing you associate with the police, but having a bit of fun is one way that Chief Chachi and the gang engage with the community. The Chief of Police’s Twitter page (@Chief- Chachi_YPD) is updated almost daily with reminders to stay safe, lock up cars and homes, and reach out to the Department for assistance. The humorous Twitter posts not only get attention and spread the word, but also help to humanize the police a bit more.
One of the Chief’s initiatives is the #Mission- LockItUp Program, which reminds residents to lock their doors, windows, and cars. The Police Department hands out reflective, weatherproof #MissionLockItUp decals to raise awareness and prevent theft.
Another out of the box idea is Operation House Call, which invites citizens to set up house calls with Chief Chachi. He hopes that by visiting with locals and listening to their concerns, residents will have more positive connotations with the Police Department. This is a chance for Yeadonites to ask questions, say hello, or even arrange a ride-along in the Chief’s police car.
There’s no denying that tension between police and people of color remains a huge social is sue. Yeadon officers are committed to learning, listening, and repairing relationships. Back in September, the Department participated in the National Day of Reconciliation. This was a nationwide event that encouraged communication and healing between police and people of color. The free public event included a screening of the movie Walking While Black: L.O.V.E. is the Answer and influenced positive, directional change.
Be sure to check out the Yeadon Police Department’s Facebook page, where they recognize local businesses, highlight citizens’ good deeds, and encourage unity and kindness. That’s also where residents can find information about upcoming events and programs. The Police Department is located at 600 Church Lane and can be reached at 610-284-1606.