DETROIT, MI — Children smiled. Shopping carts filled. The day brightened for Detroit students who might not have otherwise had a Christmas.
And instead of patrolling violent sections of Detroit, officers got a respite.
They showed off their softer sides, shared laughs and conversation as they escorted about 15 kids, most about 13, on a $100 shopping spree down the aisles of Target in Warren Friday night.
More than 20 officers from all of the Detroit Police Precincts participated in a shop-with-a-cop event sponsored by Target.
“They went around the store picking things out, putting them into the baskets, laughing, just having a good time,” said Detroit Police Sgt. Wendie Collier, the department’s chief neighborhood liaison. “It was a heartfelt moment for us … to make these kids have a bright and wonderful Christmas.”
Collier said children grabbed hula hoops, Nerf footballs, basketballs, puzzles, model airplanes, “you name it.”
“I remember one of the children, when it was time to receive their gift card, I asked, do you want me to give your card to you” or hold onto it, Collier said. “She said, ‘I got this, I’m ready to shop.”
The students, who were chauffeured to the store in Detroit police cars. were selected by their respective schools based on need and income, the sergeant said.
It’s the first time the Detroit Police Department has hosted a shop-with-a-cop event in recent years, but Collier said the department hopes it becomes tradition.
Detroit Public Safety Foundation Director of Grants Karen Brown arranged the night through a grant offered by Target.
“We worked closely with Target to get support for this event,” Brown said, adding that Target plans to work with the Detroit Police Department on future youth-related initiatives.
One of those is CITI Camp, which stands for Children in Trauma Intervention. It’s a 13-week day camp during which officers mentor troubled youth and work to get them “back to a better place,” said Lt. Elaine Miles, supervisor of the Chief Neighborhood Liaison Office.
Collier said the children were grateful and some even used their gift cards to purchase presents for their parents.
They were allowed to wrap the gifts before being driven home. But it was time for a pizza party first.