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Shop with a Cop — with a twist

Forest Grove has expanded program

Every year during the holiday season, the Forest Grove Police Department, along with many other police agencies around the state and across the country, participates in the well-known Shop with a Cop program.

Forest Grove and Cornelius officers host a shopping spree for 10 to 15 kids each at WalMart and Fred Meyer. Typically, said FGPD Capt. Mike Herb, it’s the day-shift officers and administrative staff who help with the event.

“Something that we felt we was missing was the ability for other officers on other patrol shifts to be able to give,” Herb said. “We wanted to be able to reach out to our community on a wider scale and involve more of the department and help more kids.”

For example, Herb explained, during the course of regular duties, officers often make observations of situations where they see a young person in need. Sometimes they encounter a child who could use positive reinforcement. It could be a volatile domestic disturbance, a situation where a family member is arrested or a situation that might be perceived as negative police interaction to the child.

WalMart agreed to partner with FGPD in expanding beyond what the department has ordinarily been able to do with Shop with a Cop. Officers now have their patrol car trunks stocked with gifts to reach out when the need arises.

“It allows for an immediate positive reinforcement at what might be a difficult time at the moment,” Herb said.

A second twist on the holiday Shop with a Cop tradition is “surprise patrols.”

Forest Grove Community Service Officer Teresa Kohl has been working with some of the children who wait for the school bus at 23rd Avenue and Elm Street. On Wednesday afternoon, officers stopped by the bus stop at the drop-off time, turned on their overhead lights and handed out gifts. The kids, Herb said, “were super excited. Even the mothers received a small gift.”

Also on Wednesday, Chief Janie Schutz and officers took gifts and door prizes to a Neighborhood Watch meeting attended by 38 tenants at Karen’s Corner.

“FGPD officers will be glad to cruise through (Karen’s Korner) now with a wave for residents who they know are working to keep their community safe,” Kohl said.

As the chief headed back to the department, she saw two families  walking home at dusk. “She parked and grabbed toys for the children and even handed the parents new skillets and colorful lap robes tied in bright ribbons,” Kohl said.

“It was a feel-good day.”

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