Changing Perspectives Through Shopping

By Joelyn Hansen

Perceptions of police officers are not always positive. Officers are often called upon to make tough decisions that ultimately change the path of whom they interact with. Sometimes those decisions result in someone being taken to jail or children being taken from a home. In the bigger picture, police are trying to protect society and the individuals directly involved. But, on the smaller scale, sometimes they’re viewed as the “bad” cop – especially by children who don’t fully understand the reasons behind the officer’s decisions or actions.
Nearly two decades ago, local law enforcement and community groups geared at helping children came together and started the “Shop with a Cop” program in Bonneville County. Their mission wasn’t merely to start a charity program, but instead changing the attitude of children adversely affected by law enforcement.
For one Saturday morning during the Christmas season, a child is paired with an officer or member of law enforcement to shop for a few hours in hopes that child will know that law enforcement truly cares about their well-being.
This last Saturday, 29 children had the opportunity to participate in the 2011 Shop with a Cop program. Organizers aren’t able to look into the crystal ball of the future to see whether or not any of these children will look at law enforcement differently. But, hopefully, from the joy felt by all that participated, they’ll at least remember this one day as a postive experience.