By Chance Chamberlain
The Harrisonville Police Department is again raising money for its annual Shop with a Cop program, but this year will look different because of COVID-19 safety precautions.
Harrisonville Police Chief John Hofer said, “We are doing everything we can to make sure that children get a Christmas this year and we are doing what we can to make sure the event remains an in-person experience because Shop with a Cop is meant to build relationships between children an officers.”
This year Hofer said the department is taking multiple precautions to limit contact and to ensure the health and safety of everybody involved in the event.
“We are trying hard to make the shopping days as safe as possible. In the past, we met children and their parents at the Elks’ Lodge and provided breakfast and bingo for the parents while their kids shopped. This year we are instead meeting at Walmart and parents will wait in their vehicles while their kids spend their money,” he explained. “Upon arrival, all officers and children will go through a temperature screening and then they will shop. Additionally, everybody involved will be required to wear a mask 100 percent of the time during the event.”
Shop with a Cop is typically a one-day event involving 200 children alongside their assigned officer. This year, the group will be split into two separate shopping sessions Hofer said, “We plan to split up the group for the first time this year, so it is easier to social distance. Our goal is to limit exposure, so we will shop with one group of 100 kids on Dec. 12 and the other group of 100 kids on Dec. 19.”
The Shop with a Cop program was introduced to the Harrisonville Police Department 10 years ago, when Hofer became chief. Since, he has provided 200 children with $100 shopping sprees each year. The program is not only used to provide a Christmas experience to children, but also a learning tool, according to Hofer.
“The idea of the program is to provide a positive Christmas experience to kids who might not have the chance for one otherwise. It is also a teaching opportunity for the officers to talk to the kids about law enforcement and to build a positive relationship,” he said. “We try to pair every kid with an officer that is in uniform so we can break down the wall of intimidation between the kids and the officers. We obviously love helping the kids shop for the toys they want, but we also take pride in educating and building relationships.”
The Harrisonville Police Department accepts donations to fund the program via drop-off or by mail at the police station at 205 N. Lexington. Additionally, Mazzio’s in Harrisonville is collecting donations at the counter and Harrisonville Sonic Drive-In is doing a 50/50 raffle to aid in funding Shop with a Cop.
Hofer said, “We do not typically set up any donation jars around town, but the people over at Mazzio’s put out a jar every year and we appreciate that a lot. We accept donations at the station, and I would say that is the best place to leave funds.
“This year has been tough on a lot of people in our community, so I hope we can provide a positive experience to not only the kids, but their families as well. We really want everybody to have a good Christmas,” he added.