Area officers make a holiday impact

Dec. 9—Members of local law enforcement agencies gathered at the Walmart in Yuba City on Wednesday evening for the 16th annual Shop with a Cop event. In groups of three, officers and law enforcement officials accompanied 38 kids to go Christmas shopping.

After gathering donations from local businesses and community members, the kids were given $100 gift cards to purchase toys, clothing or other holiday gifts for themselves and their families.

Members of the Sutter County Sheriff's Reserve Association, the Sutter Deputy Sheriff's Association and the Sutter County Peace Officers' Association were present to escort kids around the store. Other community organizations like Trauma Intervention Program (TIP) also participated.

Each child was paired with a uniformed officer and a member of TIP, a probation officer, a member of the Sheriff's Posse or a Fish and Wildlife officer, Community Service Officer Daisy Aguilar said.

As children shopped, their partners were in charge of keeping track of their spending. An overage card was also available at checkout in case kids went over their spending limit.

Shop with a Cop was organized to help underprivileged children and families in need purchase holiday gifts. Each child was selected through their school administrators who identified them based on need, including family situations, unemployment, not having the financial means to provide gifts for the holidays, or other family hardships, Aguilar said.

Aside from helping children in need, Shop with a Cop also gives kids a chance to form positive relationships with law enforcement. Parents were able to follow their children and their shopping partners, but were encouraged to step back and allow kids to interact with the officers.

"There's a lot of bad stigma with police, especially with kids. Parents will tell their kids, 'Don't be bad or I'll have the police come arrest you,' but we don't want kids to be afraid. We want to make kids comfortable and show that they can approach the police when they need help," Aguilar said. "This is also a good opportunity for law enforcement because when officers get together like this, it's for something tragic. This allows them to meet and interact with every department."

Cassia McRoberts said that her 6-year-old son Conan was excited to meet a police officer and purchase dinosaur Legos.

"This definitely connects the community to the sheriff's department and just gives people more spirit," McRoberts said.

Michelle Smith, principal of Encinal Elementary School in Live Oak, has participated in Shop with a Cop for the last eight years. This year, she nominated second grade student Nick Salvador for the program in order to get him connected with law enforcement. While shopping, he was able to purchase an RC car and video games.

"This is one of my favorite programs just because the kids get so excited, and it's great to talk with parents in a different atmosphere," Smith said.

Once children finished shopping, their gifts were wrapped by members of the Kiwanis Club of Yuba City and given to their parents to keep until Christmas. Desserts, drinks and candy bags were distributed after each family received their wrapped gifts.