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Syracuse residents ask questions, raise concerns and connect with police chief over coffee

Tom Magnarelli
Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler (left) talks with David Nappi of East Syracuse.

So far in 2016, the Syracuse Police Department has been dealing with homicides on the city’s north and south sides and the high profile killing of a baby girl. Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler continues to listen to concerns directly from the public.

At a Dunkin Donuts in Syracuse, Fowler sits down one-on-one with whoever wants to grab a cup of coffee with him and ask questions. Many residents offered condolences to the family of 21-month-old Maddox Lawrence who was recently killed and her father charged with murder.

David Nappi of East Syracuse, a former marine, wanted to make sure the officers that worked on the case were doing okay.

“I can’t imagine that it’s not hitting them hard, I’d be surprised if any of those guys have slept anytime in the past few days,” Nappi said. “So you have to be concerned about their well-being.”

Fowler has said a 911 caller was instrumental in leading officers to Maddox Lawrence's father after both of them went missing. Nappi said the 911 caller did a tremendous service to the community.

"When we see something wrong, do the right thing, that’s just a citizen doing a good thing," Nappi said. "Otherwise that little girl would still be out there.”

Nappi said he had a positive first time experience talking to Fowler. He described Fowler as someone with good experience, who cuts to the chase and calls it like it is.

Fowler said he has heard others ask about how officers that were on the Lawrence case are handling the emotional toll.

“Clearly this is something that affects everyone, not just the officers," Fowler said. "Every time I’m asked that question I bring the family up first. We can’t forget the family in all of this.”   

Fowler said that officers have a strong support network.

"We plan to engage that support network to make sure the officers have the resources that they need in the times that they need it," Fowler said.

There was talk about violence and drugs in the city; questions on if law enforcement had enough people on staff. Although Fowler said that he himself will retire at the end of 2017, he wanted to remind people that he’s focused on the job with no signs of slowing.

“I plan to be pedal to the medal just like sprinting across the finish line just like I’ve done before,” Fowler said.

Until then he wants to focus on reducing gun violence and admitted last year’s 23 homicides was tough on the city.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.