Chapel Hill police discuss response to Franklin Street storming

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UNC students celebrate the win after the men’s basketball team defeated Duke University on Thursday Feb. 20.

Chapel Hill Police Sgt. Bryan Walker was on Franklin Street Thursday night, but he wasn’t celebrating. He was keeping an eye on you.

And at 8 a.m. Friday morning, while most people were in bed recovering from the UNC men’s basketball victory over Duke University, Walker and about 10 other officers from the Chapel Hill Police Department gathered with interested Chapel Hill residents to chat over a cup of coffee.

The event, held at Market Street Coffeehouse on South Elliott Road, was the first Coffee with a Cop event in Chapel Hill and is part of a national movement to break down barriers between citizens and police.

Many of the officers at Friday’s event had been working until 2 a.m. the previous night to keep the town safe during post-game festivities.

While there were as many as five fan-fueled bonfires started on Franklin Street after the big win, no related arrests were made.

Walker, a professional standards and information sergeant with the Chapel Hill Police Department, said he enjoys working large celebrations like the storming of Franklin Street because the crowds of Chapel Hill are generally happy. He said large crowds are typically rowdy.

“That means less problems for us,” Walker said.

Walker has been on Franklin Street for Chapel Hill’s Halloween celebration every year for the past 20 years, which drew a crowd of 80,000 people at a peak in 2007.

He said it is one of his favorite events to patrol, and his favorite costumes are from attendees dressed as characters from the police-themed comedy show Reno 911!

Sgt. Gabriel Shinn, a patrol sergeant with the department for 16 years who attended the event, sat down, coffee in hand, and talked about his experiences as an officer.

His experiences include everything from issuing traffic tickets to patrolling celebrations on Franklin Street like the one on Thursday night, which attracted about 10,000 people at the peak of the storming.

Though it was a late night coupled with an early morning, Shinn said the officers were happy to be at the event and answer any questions residents had for them.

“I think it humanizes police officers,” Shinn said.

Sarah Owens, owner of Market Street Coffeehouse, said the shop decided to host Coffee with a Cop because she hopes it will reinforce ties between the public and law enforcement.

“It’s a nice community event and we really enjoy being a part of this community,” Owens said. “It just seemed like a natural extension of what our vision is for the community.”

city@dailytarheel.com

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