Cops take to the stores
Published: December 5, 2006 | 5143rd good news item since 2003
Yeah, they look tough in their uniforms and bulletproof vests. But inside they’re a bunch of softies. [A Cop’s Life: True Stories from the Heart Behind the Badge]
On Saturday morning, 32 law enforcement officers showed up at Kmart to help 86 kids shop for Christmas presents. Each kid was given a $25 gift card and a cop to assist him or her. Kmart donated $400, and the rest came from law enforcement unions.
“If the kid goes over the $25,” said Reita Wyatt, who organizes the Shop With a Cop event, “then the officer pays it out of his pocket.”
And there was plenty of that.
“Who are we going to shop for?” asked Benton County Sheriff Jim Swinyard of a
4-year-old named Kelsey. She smiled shyly and tilted her head to one side.
“Do you like princess things?” Swinyard asked.
Turns out, as a grandpa, he’s an expert on 4-year-old taste. Kelsy eventually picked out some Play-doh and a Blue Pony. But she seemed even happier at Swinyard’s allowing her to briefly “break the law” — he let her ride the side of the shopping cart while he pushed it. (For professionals only — do not try this at home.) She giggled merrily.
Each officer had his own style for helping the kids.
“OK, let’s go,” said a U.S. Army officer as he charged down the aisle with a little boy.
Officer Tyson Poole patiently scanned some walkie-talkies with a boy named Richard.
“Are these real?” Richard asked.
“Let’s see — works up to a thousand feet,” Poole read.
“Like you guys’?” Richard asked.
“How much is it?” Richard asked conscientiously.
“Nine ninety-nine,” Poole said. “You can get that and still have some left over.”
Toys weren’t the only attraction.
“I think I’ve seen you on TV before,” said a boy to his accompanying police officer as they headed for the toy section.
“Yeah, I’m on TV a lot,” the officer dead-panned.
The kids are chosen from foster parent organizations and from the self-sufficiency program.
Wyatt had lots of help keeping things moving with volunteers such as Kristen Ramsay and her two daughters handing out candy canes to kids and making sure everyone got matched up with a cop.
Brothers Johnny, 4, and George, 9, are new to Corvallis. Their family moved here from Utah to be closer to their grandmother. The boys got some Power Rangers stuff and a plastic automatic gun. Oh, and some dolls for their two baby sisters.
“This is me, and this is the policeman I shopped with,” said Johnny displaying a Polaroid photo.
Each kid got a picture along with the presents. And each officer went back to get a new shopping partner until everyone had gone through their lists.
A burly Oregon State Police trooper knelt down to consult with a 4-year-old girl.
“Let’s get your family straightened out,” he said, and they went down a list. Prioritize, set goals.
“Who do you want to shop for first?” he asked.
A pause while she considered.
“How about you?” he asked sweetly.
Yeah, tough guys. Sure.