The Metropolitan Police Department took 170 children on a holiday shopping spree Tuesday as part of the annual "Shop with a Cop" event.
Participants met on the store’s third floor ahead of time and drew numbers to pair police officers with children. Most kids had a "Night before Christmas" air of anticipation. Most of the parents and caretakers smiled. A lot.
When everyone was ready, Police Chief Cathy Lanier used her bullhorn and called the first number: 144.
No one came forward. It wasn't immediately clear whether shyness or confusion accounted for the delay. Lanier hit the bullhorn, called 144 again and told the children to check their numbers. Finally the crowd parted and 12-year-old Precious Proctor of Southeast D.C. came slowly forward.
Lanier whisked her away to do some serious shopping. The chief immediately discarded her heavy dress uniform jacket and ordered Precious to take off her puffy white parka and expertly tied scarf.
"First things first," Lanier said. "Mad, furious shopping means you gotta lighten up."
Lanier quickly demonstrated her expertise at mad, furious shopping. She and her preteen charge investigated some clothes, asked a salesperson for advice, hit the down escalator and came upon another clothing section.
Precious proved to be a worthy shopping apprentice. She selected some jeans and started to look at the tops.
"Long-sleeved?" she asked.
"I think so; it’s winter time," said Lanier mildly, sounding every bit the mother she is. "What colors do you like, honey?"
"Blue," Precious said immediately, followed less emphatically by red.
Later Lanier looked hard at a rack of tops Precious had just bypassed and called the girl back, pointing out the sign: 30 percent off. They huddled together, searching for the right size and whispering to keep nosy newspeople from knowing every single bit of their business.
Once the clothes were all selected, Precious decided to look for some art supplies. Lanier aided the search by showing her protégé how best to ask for help in a store.
Before they hit the checkout, Lanier avowed that events like Shop with a Cop are the best part of her job. "It’s great for us; it’s fun," she said. "It's important for these kids to see that we do good things, too. We do a lot of good things with kids and we want to make sure families are taken care of."
Lanier continued, slinging an arm around Precious’ shoulders. "And Precious now has a different view of police officers, right?"
"And we want her to have a nice Christmas. We've got about 170 kids here today, so we've made a difference to 170 kids today. It's a nice feeling," Lanier said.
Shop With a Cop is funded by the D.C. Police Foundation and Target, but today’s event represents only a fraction of the seasonal effort. Lanier said 1,000 kids will have Christmas presents this year because of MPD's community outreach efforts.
Chief Lanier's shopping tips:
- Take off your coat; you don't want to shop hot.
- If you have a question, introduce yourself to the salesperson, smile and ask for help. Soon you'll have your own personal shopper.
- Look for stuff on sale. You can get twice as much for half the price.
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