The Mesa Community College Police Department participated in the seventh annual “Shop with a Cop” event to pair law enforcement officers with children at a Walmart in Mesa near Dobson and the 202 Red Mountain Freeway on Saturday, Dec. 10 at 7 a.m.
The MCCPD was joined by various law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI and the Mesa, Phoenix, and Maricopa Police Departments, and shopped with children who can’t receive gifts from their families.
Each child was given $100 and one hour to shop around Walmart and receive what they want. When the children were done shopping, they would checkout at specifically marked checkout lanes which were for the event.
The event began with two check-in tables for the parents to sign in and meet the law enforcement officers that will be shopping with them for the hour. Each child has to stay with the law enforcement officer until the parent returns.
Many children had lists of what they wanted to get for their families and themselves.
Children walked near the main entrance of the Walmart to the breakfast table. Various foods such as burritos, coffee, and fruits were all given to children and law enforcement officers for free while they waited to enter the Walmart to shop.
“In our event, we try to make it a carnival atmosphere that will have fake snow outside. We have Disney Princesses, Star Wars, Ghostbusters, and a 30-foot blow up Marshmallow Man outside,” said event organizer and retired police officer Jim Hill.
According to MCC Police Sergeant Jack McClaren, children could take pictures with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus at the event. Most children took the pictures with their law enforcement officer that served as their chaperone until they were released to their parents.
McClaren was stationed at the breakfast platter table with his family. According to McClaren, “Shop with a Cop” has become a tradition for the McClaren family to participate in giving back to the community.
Children and their law enforcement officer went into Walmart in groups. The Walmart was packed with law enforcement officers and children who were excited to shop for themselves and their families.
“If a child spends more than $100, we don’t make them put anything back. We don’t deny a child of any gifts,” said Hill.
At “Shop with a Cop”, certain Walmart registers were closed off specifically for children who participated in the event. Co-event organizer Cindy Hill stayed at the registers to pay for each child and give them a free stuffed animal when they were finished.
“We have volunteers in the garden center that does gift wrapping for them,” said Hill.
Mark Ridley is a deputy sheriff for Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and participated in his first “Shop with a Cop” event. According to Ridley, being involved and giving back to the community is the best part of the job.
“We always hope that we can show kids that cops aren’t everything that everybody wants us to seem like,” said Deputy Sheriff Mark Ridley.
Marley Tsenes is a police officer for Phoenix Police Department, and she participated in her fourth “Shop with a Cop” event. According to Tsenes, letting the children feel love and happiness around the holidays is important.
“My favorite part is when I ask the kids what they want and they’re ready to spend money on everybody else in their family and I start crying,” said Tsenes.
Daniel Brown is a patrol officer with Mesa Police Department, and he also participated in his first “Shop with a Cop” event. According to Brown, being new in the police department influenced his decision to go out and interact with the community and participate in this event.
“All first responders and police officers are humans just like people in the community and we like to hang out in the community just like everyone else,” said Brown.
“Shop with a Cop” was founded by Cindy and Jim Hill, who also serve as co-founders, president, and vice president of Arizona Law Enforcement Outreach and Support.
According to AZLEOS, they take part in community policing programs that bring the law enforcement and community together. AZLEOS has many different events they conduct throughout the year to support community engagement.
“AZLEOS helps raise the money for the Shop with a Cop program. We take donations up until Christmas Eve,” said Hill.
According to McClaren, people were able to donate money to “Shop with a Cop” on the day of the event as well. They could even possibly receive a free drink while discussing the purpose of the event.