Local Tough Cops Learns Soft Tough Goes A Long Way - New York News

Local Tough Cops Learns Soft Tough Goes A Long Way

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UPPER DARBY, Pa. -

Effectively fighting crime and connecting with the community is quite a balancing act for any police department, but after decades on the front lines one local tough cop learns a soft touch goes a long way.

He's known for not holding back, the tough guy, top cop of Upper Darby, PA.

He spends his days coming down hard on criminals, pranksters, and neighborhood knuckleheads, but the mob he chooses to confront on many nights under the Market Street El gets a different treatment a kinder, gentler Mike Chitwood.

Now he's serving them hot soup instead of arrest warrants casual conversation instead of reading Miranda rights and issuing advice instead of summons.

"I'm seeing people here today who remind me that I locked them up 30 years ago," he said. "I feel it's important to let people in the community who are down and out and may even have criminal records to know I care."

Chitwood admits he wasn't always this "officer friendly".

"That's what life is about when people say to me, "awe you were this and you were that" . Yea I was," he said. "But I learned, again the hard way if you treat people the way you want yourself and your family treated, you're going to win."

He says he learned about winning at building better police relations in the community. You might say it came by way of divine intervention.

The faithful came from area places of worship, all religions, and all denominations all working together to provide the most basic human need food.

"It's amazing to see what the churches do," he said.

Every evening of every day, holidays included - local religious groups, Christian churches, mosques, and synagogues take turns feeding 2 to 300 hungry people at the life center of Delaware County.

"This doesn't cost the government anything," said Jim Shelton, manager of the Life Center Of Delco.

They take turns buying it, preparing it, delivering it, and serving it - on their dime and time.

"It's a good thing. Makes you feel good and I think the church as a whole embraces the mission," said Lynne Major of St James United Church of Christ.

"And it's the right thing to do. Selfishly I get a thrill out of feeding people myself so I get something out of it too," said John Lyon of Grace Lutheran Church.

Residents from neighboring West Philadelphia roll up their sleeves too.

"A lot of people need help, I need help, but I feel good helping out," Richard Parker, a West Philadelphia volunteer.

The various religious institutions raise some of the food money through an annual contest among shelter chefs, but most is out of pocket.

It's one of the reasons manager Jim Shelton calls this shelter, rehab, and counseling center "The Miracle on 63rd street."

"We put out food worth $1.4 million every year for free," Shelton said.

This is a place where relationships can grow where even a tough cop can come and they won't run.

Then he's right back to swearing in new cops and locking up more robbers.

"And sometimes I come down on people hard, but at the same time, you come down here, it gives you a sense a well-being, a sense of feeling good about yourself, Chitwood said.

It's a give and take that Chitwood believes is a valuable crime fighting tool and a way to start rebuilding bridges among broken communities.

"I'm a community leader, why shouldn't I be down here more community leaders should be down here doing this," he said.

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