Local law enforcement officers didn’t let the pandemic put a damper on the annual Shop With A Cop event, the highlight of the year for many local children and officers alike.
Organized by the Carrollton Fraternal Order of Police, Shop With A Cop takes about 80-100 local special needs, at-risk and disadvantaged children on a Christmas shopping trip to Walmart, accompanied by area officers.
“This is, by far, my favorite day of the year,” said Investigator Sergeant and Public Information Officer Meredith Hoyle Browning. “Seeing the children’s faces, especially those who have had a really rough year, is worth a million bucks.”
Carrollton Police Chief Joel Richards and now-retired CPD Lieutenant Ricky Rayburn expanded Shop With A Cop’s scope to include special needs children several years ago. The event is usually conducted over two days but was expanded to four days this year as a COVID-19 safety precaution. Officers picked up the children from their schools and took them to the Carrollton Walmart store while masked and observing other safety measures.
The FOP conducts fundraisers, like the Chris Cromer Golf Tournament, throughout the year to support this program. An average of $250 is spent on each child during the shopping trip.
In recent years, organizers have focused on including children who are victims of or witnesses to crimes. Officers and local schools send Browning names, ages and case numbers for people they wish to nominate based on their circumstances. She reviews the nominees and tries to accommodate everyone while making an effort not to select the same children each year so more have an opportunity to participate.
“This December will be my eighteenth Shop With A Cop,” said Browning. “When we are at calls or investigating cases where these children potentially had the worst day of their lives, we can now see them have one of the best days of their lives. Hopefully, this can be a bright spot at the end of a crazy year for everyone.”