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HPD’s Shop with a Cop event continues to grow

Dec. 17 a fleet of Hartselle Police Department squad cars cruised into the Walmart parking lot with lights flashing. Inside the cars were Hartselle children who had each been gifted $300 and partnered with a law enforcement officer as a part of the Shop with a Cop event.

For the next several hours, smiles abounded – and they didn’t all belong to the children who filled their carts with Nerf guns, Hula Hoops and electronics. The officers themselves bounced basketballs, reached the toys on the top shelves and calculated totals for the eager shoppers.

The event, in its third year, has grown both in monetary donations and number of participants, Police Chief Justin Barley said. This past year, all of the original partners wanted to participate again, without having to be asked.

An anonymous donor during the event gave an additional $1,000 toward the goal that has now been surpassed, Barley said.

“Now I’m working to identify some additional kids we will do some deliveries to before Christmas,” he added. “All in all, it looks like we will be able to bless a total of 15 kids this year. We have more money than I asked for.”

After the shopping sprees, the children were treated to a pizza party, with lunch and desserts provided by Pizza Ed and Sweet Sensations.

Other local businesses that made contributions include Woodmen Life, BeFrizz and the Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association.

“It’s one of our favorite days of the year,” Barley said. “We were really only limited this year by the number of cops I have.”

Children are identified to participate in the Shop with a Cop event through their school counselors, Barley said.

“Some of them have a financial need, and some of the children are rewarded for their good behavior at school,” he said. “We have also had a couple of kids who are in the foster system, and the situations that led them to be in the system were traumatic, so they were identified and partnered up with us because their counselors and foster parents thought they needed a positive interaction with law enforcement.

“We love those opportunities because the long-term implications of that can be invaluable,” he added. “We want to make sure these kids know that, growing up, we are here to help them – that we are their friends.

“There are a variety of kids who participate for a variety of reasons, but we enjoy every one, and our officers love it too,” he said. “We are already looking at ways to continue to grow this event next year.”