Published December 25, 2013
Shop with a Cop event fosters positive relationships between police, community
By Sarah Wojcik email@example.com
SHELBY TOWNSHIP — On Dec. 19, about a dozen Shelby Township police officers in uniform accompanied 28 kids from 15 local families as they did some holiday shopping at the Wal-Mart on 23 Mile Road and M-53.
The children each received a $100 gift card to pick out gifts for themselves and loved ones, courtesy of a donation from the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 142, and officers’ family members and other Police Department employees volunteered to wrap the gifts for Christmas.
Officer Joe Stuglin has participated in the Shop with a Cop event for most of the 13 years he has been with the department and has headed up the operation for the last two years. Prior to this year, it was held at the Meijer in Washington Township.
“This program is our way to give back to the community and families who have fallen on hard times or misfortunate circumstances,” Stuglin said, adding that he reached out to local schools, churches and organizations for the selection process.
He said that despite a slow start, families in need poured in closer to the event and, based on the money available, he had to turn down a couple of them.
“We try to instill the Christmas spirit of giving and sharing,” he said. “We’ll encourage (the kids) to get Mom something or brother or Dad. Other times, depending on circumstance, (parents will tell us), ‘I want them to get all the money for their gifts.’”
Stuglin said the public often stares during the event because of the misconception that an officer in uniform is normally present under the premise of trouble. He said the point of the event is to be role models for youth, create a friendly atmosphere and be personable with the kids.
“Sometimes they say, ‘You better behave or he’s going to arrest you.’ We hate to hear that. No, we want them to be our friends,” Stuglin said. “We are not always coming to somebody’s house to arrest them or take Mom or Dad.”
In his experience, he said the families are very thankful, and the kids seem to love being paired with a police officer for a holiday shopping spree.
Officer Brandon Dowty escorted Laura Trego and her sons Jonathan, 4, and Saul, 14. Trego’s son Christopher, 9, and her nephew, Anthony, 10, were paired with another police officer. Trego found out about the event through a friend.
“It’s a lot of stuff,” she said, looking down at a shopping cart full of clothes, pajamas, socks, jackets, a stuffed monkey and a toy truck. “It’s so nice. It’s so good. I’m so happy to shop with (Dowty).”
Dowty said he tries to volunteer at the Shop with a Cop event every year and that he has been with Shelby Township for five years.
“If we can tell by (the kids’) faces that they really want a toy, we’ll pitch in to get it,” he said. “They’re both happy with what they got. They didn’t want any more — they weren’t greedy at all. It’s nice to see. They’re great kids.”
Dowty said the department likes to help out and make the kids happy.
“We’re not all bad guys,” he said. “It’s nice to give back to the community.”