On a cold Wednesday morning, community members headed to Skylite West Banquet to join Berwyn Mayor Robert Lovero, city staff and local officials for the annual buffet-style Senior Christmas Breakfast.
In partnership with the senior services department, Berwyn Township and Berwyn Township Public Health District, the popular holiday tradition, which took place Dec. 4, pulled in more than 100 seniors to share a moment of warmth and togetherness.
As the mayor made his rounds and greeted the guests, the Berwyn Police Department sent out one of its own to make the morning just a little more memorable. In a bright red suit, Tattles the Elf, the department’s newest member, weaved through the room, frequently making a stop for photos with Santa. A natural jokester, Tattles laughed with attendees and other officers. He even tried to stand on chairs or hopped on the back counter.
This was Tattles’ last public appearance before Cocoa with a Cop on Dec. 21 at Lunges ’n Lattes on Stanley Avenue.
Days before the senior event, Tattles popped around the neighborhood, including a handful of area schools, said Wayne Sedore, the city’s manager of emergency communications.
In fact, Tattles, who has been a lively guest at the police department, is on his own mission.
“For the first time ever, there’s a crime going on in the North Pole,” Sedore said. “He’s the first director of security from the North Pole, and in order to learn how to do the job, he’s coming to Berwyn to learn from the best.”
On Facebook, there’s a string of videos featuring Tattles alongside officers and staff at the local department. Whether he’s hanging out with K-9 officer Simo, leading a snowball fight in the dispatch center, going on ride-alongs or hanging Christmas lights, Tattles the Elf has sealed every video with an important lesson about public safety.
“It’s meant to be fun, but it’s also an educational tool,” said Berwyn Police Sgt. Joseph Fitzgerald, who volunteered to play the role of Tattles.
For Fitzgerald, becoming Tattles meant he’s able to show residents that there’s more to the police department than meets the eye. In an upcoming skit, Fitzgerald revealed that he will be collaborating with the Berwyn Police Animal Control Department to catch a reindeer. The animal control department, he said, typically helps stray animals such as cats and dogs find new shelter and proper care.
“If you want to be a part of law enforcement, you don’t have to be a police officer,” he said, adding there are plenty of opportunities for people, including civilians, to be involved. “You can be a crime analyst, you know. You can be a dispatcher.”
Sedore and Michael Cirolia, unit commander of the juvenile district, echoed Fitzgerald. To them, developing Tattles the Elf’s character served as way to connect with their audience. With patrol officer Jennifer Stillo completing the four-member team, they sought to deliver simple, easy messages.
In one of the posts, Fitzgerald told viewers to remember to keep their car, house or garage doors closed, locked and valuables out of sight to prevent burglaries. In another, he spoke about dispatchers and how it’s important for callers to “know your address and to pay attention to the names on street signs when you’re outside.”
“We want to make sure that, especially young people, know that the police are trusted adults,” Sedore said.
Back at the senior breakfast, Sedore was dubbed the designated photographer for Santa and Tattles and followed closely behind them. Every now and then, Tattles the Elf would bolt across the room, flashing a charming smile – a lethal weapon for any jester.
As Sedore and his colleagues basked in what they’ve created, they talked more about the importance of thinking outside of the box when speaking to residents. This one, Sedore said, beats sending out the same old newsletters that “doesn’t really get the traction we need,” and doing something creative is the only way they could reach people.
“We need to do something that’s a little bit out there and embracing Berwyn’s weirdness,” Sedore said laughing.
If you go
What: Cocoa with a Cop
When: 9 to 11 a.m. Dec. 21
Where: Lunges ‘n Lattes, 6805 W. Stanley Ave.