About 15 local law enforcement officers could be seen inside the Moscow Wal-Mart on Saturday morning, and it was not because a huge crime had been reported.
Instead, officers pushed shopping carts and helped children select gifts for their family members and themselves as part of the Shop with a Cop event.
Cpl. Shane Keen of the Moscow Police Department said 30 children participated and each of them could spend $75 on gifts inside the store.
Troy police Chief Richard “Richie” Skiles helped two boys shop for their families.
“This is an outstanding program for the kids in the community, and it shows that the officers like to get involved with the people in the community, too, and it brings people together,” said Skiles, who said he will be sworn in as Latah County Sheriff on Jan. 9.
Skiles helped Mason Morris, 6, shop for his mother and grandmother.
Even though the children were allowed to use part of the $75 gift card for themselves, Morris originally told Skiles he did not think he would buy anything for himself, only for his family members.
But Morris eventually decided to treat himself.
“I want something that looks good,” Morris told Skiles.
So the two walked to the toy department.
“I can’t have Legos,” Morris told Skiles. “My dog will swallow them.”
Morris ended up picking out a Hot Wheels racetrack for himself.
Skiles said it was fun spending time with the children. He said his son is 21.
“I don’t have any little ones so this is really cool,” Skiles said.
Moscow police Officer Meagan Vincello helped Emmylene Oxstien, 6, shop for her two sisters, mother and grandmother.
“Part of the importance is letting part of our community that might not have enough money to have a fun Christmas,” Vincello said.
Keen said the city of Moscow received a $2,500 grant from Wal-Mart. It was the first year the MPD participated in the event, and Keen said he plans to do it for many years.
“We’ll make it bigger,” Keen said. “This is kind of a trial run for us, getting our feet wet.”
Keen said the Latah County Sheriff’s Office, Idaho State Police, and Idaho Fish and Game also helped children select gifts.
“We would much rather have positive interactions with the community than negative,” Keen said. “Negative interactions usually end up in hurt feelings, lots of paperwork and people being separated from their families. This is kind of an event to bring families together, bring the community together, and I’d much rather do this all day long than arrest people.”
In the back of the store, Wal-Mart employees helped the children and officers wrap the presents they bought.
Keen said the Moscow Subway on Third Street donated breakfast sandwiches for the children to enjoy while their gifts were being wrapped.
“You have children from all over Latah County coming in so you’re bringing all of them together, but also the businesses within the city of Moscow coming together like that,” Keen said. “That’s kind of what the holidays are all about.”
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