Santiago Rodriguez, Suzanne Butler, Barbara Hockert, Charlotte Krause

Left to right, Wally Campbell, Acting Chief Santiago Rodriguez, Suzanne Butler, Barbara Hockert, Charlotte Krause.

His reindeer rested as Santa got a lift in a helicopter  to go shopping with some of Goodyear’s children who needed him the most. 

The Goodyear Police Department’s Shop with a Cop is a yearly event bringing a group of preselected Goodyear students to a celebration of the holidays and community. Each kid gets the chance to interact with a police officer and chat with Santa and then is taken to Walmart where they can shop with a $200 gift card. The event took place Saturday, Dec. 7, and it was the 19th year anniversary of the event. 

That Saturday morning was cold, but it was warm with laughter and holiday spirit from the kids. They were treated to breakfast and got a chance to spend time with their assigned police officer and get to know them for who they are outside of their uniform. 

Two dozen children ages 6 to 13 participated.

Santa arrived at the site in a helicopter where he circled around the kids as he waved at them from the air. The kids could not be more excited. 

After he landed, the kids met with Santa, who gave them gift cards. 

Goodyear Acting Chief of Police Santiago Rodriguez said implementing programs like these strengthens the bond between the police department and the community. He prefers the youth to have a close relationship with the police and to see them as a friend rather than someone who only shows up when there is trouble. 

  “Most of the time when these children see us, there’s an emergency going on,” Rodriguez said. “A good way to give back and for our youth, which is our future of tomorrow, to see us in a better light is in these programs.” 

“They see them as a friend and not just somebody that is coming to their job or having to deal with some type of emergency,” Rodriguez said.

Shop with a Cop is an event that gives holiday spirit to young children who are in need during tough times. But it also serves to strengthen the bond and relationship between the police department and the community. 

“The purpose is to make the holidays brighter for those who may have gotten without,” Berry said. 

“It benefits our youth,” Rodriguez said. “Our kids today are our police officers of tomorrow, our firefighters of tomorrow, our lawyers, doctors, nurses, our teachers, and it’s very important that we have programs like this in place.”

For Public Information Officer of the Goodyear Police Department, Lisa Berry, lending a hand to children in need is a special experience.

“It touches our hearts to know that we have made a difference in the lives of the children whose holidays may not have been as special and we want to make sure their dreams come true,” Berry said. 

“This is something the Goodyear Police Department looks forward to every year. It’s such an exciting time and we’re able to give back as part of our philosophy on community policing.”

It is important for children to interact with law enforcement when there isn’t an emergency, Berry said. 

“This is an awesome way to build relationships with kids at a young age, for them to see that these officers are human, that they’re the good guys and that they’re here to help us,” Berry said. “This is a great community policing opportunity because it really shows the community how the police department gives back on a regular basis.”

The children who get to be a part of this event y are often in need of additional help during the holidays or have experienced difficult times. 

“These are kids who have exceptional circumstances,” Berry said. “They’re typically great kids, well behaved, very responsible, have high academic standards, but they’ve had some sort of hardship in their life.”

What Berry finds interesting when taking these kids shopping is the amount of selfless qualities they demonstrate. Rather than thinking about themselves when spending their money, Berry said they usually keep families in mind.

“They’re so focused on wanting to get gifts for their family members,” Berry said. “Sometimes we have to remind them it’s OK to get some goodies for yourself too.”