You may not be able to see them, but you know they’re there: There are smiles hiding behind those face masks at one of the Canby Police Department’s favorite events, Shop with a Cop.
The annual outreach pairs a police officer with a local kid for a no-holds-barred shopping spree through the Canby Fred Meyer.
Participants are chosen with the help of Canby School District staff, who identify students whose families may need a little financial help for Christmas this year, or who may especially benefit from positive interaction with police.
The holidays are the “perfect time” for officers to reach out to kids and create a fun and happy memory of the season that can last a lifetime, according to Canby Police Chief Bret Smith.
“For me, it is important that the families and the children we are with see us not just as police officers, but as people who want to serve and help our community,” Smith tells The Canby Current.
Participants also get the chance to see officers as moms and dads, husbands and wives, because officers often take the opportunity to share about their personal lives during the shopping spree, Smith says.
Not many law enforcement agencies are taking part in Shop with a Cop events this year, Smith said, due to gathering size limits and other restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
But in Canby, Lt. Jorge Tro championed finding a way to continue the event — if the school district identified kids who would benefit from it.
“We were really glad we were able to do it this year, within the guidelines,” Tro tells the Current. “It’s just fun shopping with the kids. The kids are chosen for all kinds of reasons, but a positive encounter with police is always a good thing.”
Supported with funding from the Clackamas County Peace Officers’ Benevolent Foundation and local donors, Shop with a Cop made Christmas a little brighter this year for 10 lucky youngsters from the Canby area this year, each of whom was given $150 to spend on virtually anything they wanted.
“You would think they would buy everything for themselves, but a lot of them choose to buy for their family and friends,” Tro says. “They have a list.”
Unlike in previous years, in which officers and students descend on stores like Fred Meyer and Walmart en masse, this year’s iteration was spread out across several days in much smaller groups.
Parents or guardians were also asked to come along and help facilitate the encounters.
After more than a decade of Shop with a Cop in Canby, Chief Smith says he has seen the event help break down barriers, build trust and connect officers with the community they serve.
“Seeing children being excited about a gift they are able to purchase, a gift that they might not ever receive is a powerful message,” he says. “It is also a message that they might pass on as they grow into adulthood.
“Watching the joy on a child’s face and hearing the discussions between the child and the police officers on how to spend their money on family members and not just themselves is something that stays with you for a while.”
Hear more about the Canby Police Department’s Shop with a Cop event on Episode 231 of Now Hear This: Canby, “Shop! Police!”
Photos by Tyler Francke, The Canby Current:
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