“Shop With A Cop” and “Santa Cops”

Shop With A Cop

Ryan Portmann, captain for the Puyallup Police Department, explained that the program “Shop With A Cop” is primarily for elementary and middle school children that are less fortunate. A list of these children are provided from the school principal and the cop will take approximately 10 to 13 kids shopping with him. This year cops will take these children to Walmart and Fred Meyer to shop for their Christmas gifts and then take them to lunch at Trackside Pizza in Puyallup. Three ways of how the program is funded: the school resource officer approaches stores to receive donations, such as gift cards so the children can use to go shopping, grants, and some stores have quarterly amounts of money to give out to the community, while sometimes the stores will approach the cops offering money.

Ryan mentioned that many merchants have contributed to this program in the past, for example: Target, Toys R Us, and Best Buy. The Shop With A Cop program has been taking place for the last two to three years consecutively and has occurred a number of times in the last 10 years.

According to Ryan, an officer had the idea to try and do it and put it together and asked for donations. “It’s a program that’s been done nationwide aside from Tacoma, and a number of agencies have done it,” Ryan stated.

Ryan commented: “I think it’s an excellent program; the officers enjoy going out with the kids. For most kids, it’s their most positive interaction with an officer. It’s really a good program and it’s positive contact between law enforcement and the student.”

When asked the best thing about the program, Ryan replied, “In my opinion, it gets an officer to see a kid in a different light as opposed to being on the side of fence. A child is able to get to know an officer, so it’s an opportunity for them to spend time together and getting to know each other. For me personally, I knew a kid that had a tough upbringing that going through a lot, and it was very humbling for me; seeing kids out there with what this particular child was going through.”

Ryan added:“It’s a great program and I really want to emphasize a great opportunity for cops and kids to come together for something positive. It’s powerful for officers and powerful and impactful for kids. Speaking for me, I really enjoy shopping with the kids and it’s a great opportunity to remind the officer why they signed onto help people and know officers are there to help them and mainly they see us during a negative situation and now they can see us in a positive light.”


Santa Cops

Gary Shilley, patrol officer for Puyallup police department, explained how he and another officer had started the program 19 years ago. “We target families in the city of Puyallup to help with providing them Christmas gifts, food, a bed, etc. that either a friend, co-worker, family member, etc. inform us about and the family that is targeted does not know.”

Gary explained: “We get referrals from officers that run into families on the street, through calls, medical people, they all come in from different resources. As mentioned previously, families don’t know they’re being referred. One reason is that there are not enough resources and we don’t want a family waiting on us.

There were 12 families the first year and it morphed into a huge undertaking. At one point, there were over 250 families a year. In the last few years, we partnered with the Pierce County Sheriff Department. We ended up broadening the families we took care of. We deal with families in the Puyallup City limits, however, Pierce County deals with families outside of the city limits.”

Gary discussed how the program worked, “We provide new toys, food staples, and new clothes to families that we give to and we try to do when we get referral; a referral sheet has questions such as things they need, a bed for example, or kids want a certain toy. Everything’s new and nothing’s used. We do toy and food drives along with the help of businesses in town and it’s worked out really well over the years.

Anything that the public wants to drop at police station located at: 311 West Pioneer Puyallup, WA 98371 can do so until December 15th.

Toyota Puyallup has been our biggest supporter since we started and they’ve been incredible. They provide a cash donation and provide us with a truck with a logo on it, they also do a food drive this time of the year and have a drop off point (collecting food staples, and unused items) until December 15th as well.

Top Foods is another great supporter and the Walmart that is across from the South Hill Mall. We get a couple of the schools in town and the kids do a food drive for us. We take a week out of December and have a competition in which the class that brings the most food wins the contest. Elementary kids do great. Wildwood Park elementary does a food drive and assembly. We collect the food from them and kids get really involved in it.

Safeway downtown Puyallup is involved and Fred Meyer on North Meridian lets us have a food drive outside their store. Every year we get a different business that gets involved, either by a cash donation or by them allowing us to set up a food or toy drive at their store.”

Gary commented: “I think it’s a great program since I helped start it. It helps a lot of the families over the years, it especially helped a lot of people in need and targeted people in our city limits. I think it’s come a long way over the years. Families that we’ve helped came back and donated informing us that the years that we helped them was unexpected and helped them a lot. They were so appreciative. It’s well worth it.”

Gary discussed the best thing about the program, “The amount of people that we have helped in our community is phenemenoal. The people that need help are out there and we don’t realize the people that do need the help, especially this time of year. It’s amazing especially with the economy the way it is; it shows. It’s great to go out and help those people.”

Gary revealed what many people may not know about the program, “The night of our deliveries we deliver to all families in one night; all by officers in uniform in patrol cars on their own time, they volunteer on their own time. They load up their patrol cars for one or two families and deliver it. The families don’t know we’re coming and it’s a total surprise 99% of the time. The officers knock on the door and kids see officers bring in bags of food and wrap gifts for kids. It’s a weeks’ worth of food. The officers really enjoy it. It’s a great feeling of giving to the community and helping people. It helps put officers in a better light, usually when you encounter an officer, it’s not a happy situation. It helps with our image a little better, helping people. The officers bring their families and kids on the deliveries. It’s a lot of fun.”

When asked who he recommended donate to the program, Gary replied, “Anybody and everybody. We take new toys, food staples, and cash donations. We have people that send a $10 check or $100 check. I’ve seen every amount from citizens. A lot of people know of our program and want to find a way to help people this time of year. Anybody can do it, even businesses. Every once in awhile the Kiwanis Club does. I recommend anybody or everybody can donate in some fashion if they feel the need.”

For more information, people can call and leave a message at: 253 841-5415 for Officer Shilley.

It’s just a labor of love; every year we love doing it. It gets hectic this time of year, but it’s all really fun, fulfilling, and well worth what we do. It’s nice people know and find out about it. This year it will be 20 years of existence for families in the city of Puyallup,” Gary added.

By: Carly Calabrese, staff for Tacoma.com

5 thoughts on ““Shop With A Cop” and “Santa Cops””

  1. I find it very touching that the people that received assistance in the Santa Cops program helped with the program later on (when they no longer needed help). It’s nice that they were/are appreciative. The world needs more people like that, ones that are willing to help once they no longer need it as well as being grateful.

  2. I first heard of this program 3 or 4 years ago. I think it’s great that the local police and community step up during this time. I’ve also heard of and supported myself the Angle Tree, Secret Santa, the Help House and other food and gift programs supported by local churches. Additionally you hear of friends and neighbors helping others in need. No one likes to hear of a child being forgotten by Santa. Great article Carly. Every little bit helps.

  3. my family was adopted buy The Santa cop i didn’t even know this program existed butt the look on my kids face seeing all the food and gifts that where brought into our house I was in almost tears for sure next year we will donate a gift or two from the bottom of my heart I want to say thank you to the Puyallup police slashPierce County Sheriffs and lastly but least the community that make it happen

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