Dec. 15, 2017
By Mel Ullrich
Achiever Freelance Writer
On Saturday, Dec. 9, officers from IPS Police rounded up students, put them in patrol cars and hauled them away — straight to breakfast and a holiday shopping spree.
These lucky students took part in Indy’s “Shop with a Cop,” where IPS Police partnered with Indianapolis Marion County Police Department (IMPD) officers and Marion County Sheriff’s deputies for the annual holiday event. More than 200 central Indiana students — including some from IPS — were treated to a day of shopping at the Southport Meijer and a chance to connect with law enforcement officers in a fun and memorable way.
IPS Officer Karla Parsons may have been more excited than the kids.
“I have been with IPS Police for 20 years, and this was my first time participating in the event,” she said. “As a law enforcement officer, it was great to interact with the children and let them see us in a different light.”
Parsons said some children have a negative view of police, but she hopes the event helped their opinions about law enforcement become more positive.
“First and foremost, my hope is that the children had fun,” said Parsons. “I hope they saw this time together as a show of faith in them and a step in the right direction towards a future when they become part of a community where police play a positive and important role.”
Fraternal Order of Police Public Relations Officer Cindy Winzenread loves that IPS Police participate in the annual event because students are often familiar with them from school. But she gets special joy from bringing a variety of law enforcement together.
“We pull in IMPD, Speedway Police, and all forces to fill the roster and get as many officers involved as possible,” said Winzenread. “It’s brotherhood. It doesn’t matter what uniform you put on; we need all these positive influences to make this day possible and show children that the police officers at their school and throughout the city are friendly and always ready to help. … Our officers get more joy from this event than any event throughout the year.”
The children enjoy it too.
“This is the best Christmas ever,” said Jontez B., one of the young shoppers. “We got to ride in a police car and look at toys and games with Officer Parsons. She knows a lot about games!”
The day started bright and early with a police escort to breakfast, also held at the Southport Meijer. Participating students were picked up at their homes so their assigned officer had the chance to get to know the entire family. It also gave the officers and their students time to talk as they traveled to and from the big shopping day. Each officer and child worked together to buy gifts for the entire family, ranging from clothes to toys and games.
“I think the children benefit by being able to provide gifts for themselves and their families for the holiday and developing a new perspective when they encounter law enforcement,” said Parsons. “I think it’s important for the kids to know that we are parents and people just like them. ”
This is Officer Jayden Allen’s first year with IPS Police, and as soon as he heard about Shop with a Cop, he signed up to help. “I love helping people, especially young people,” he said. “To be able to connect with them one-on-one and give them something to smile about is a privilege. For some of these kids, this is the only Christmas they will have, and I feel very fortunate that I could be part of it.”
The annual Shop with a Cop program is a spirit of fellowship that takes place during the holiday season and reinforces the positive aspects of community and police relationships.