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Shop With A Cop returns to Walmart

Saturday, Dec. 15 | By Mark Grandstaff | Google+
Fauquier Detective Strick Payne stands at the checkout line with his partner for the day at the annual Shop With A Cop event in the Warrenton Walmart. - Photo by Adam Goings
Fauquier's law enforcement community treated 48 children to a shopping spree, breakfast and crafts in this year's Shop With A Cop event.

At 7:30 a.m. Saturday, 53 officers from the Fauquier County Sheriff's Office, Virginia State Police and Warrenton Police Department gathered to pair with children, or to fill out shopping lists given to them by very young children.

Shop With A Cop is a yearly effort to give a positive experience with law enforcement to children who have been in traumatic events requiring police intervention. At the beginning of the morning, some of those children looked wary, hands in their pockets, peering up at the crowd of officers at the entrance to Walmart. Others bounced from foot to foot, eager to start shopping.

Each of the children had $115 allotted to spend on whatever they wanted. That money went quick. Virginia Trooper Brad Baker bartered with a young girl, adding and subtracting a pile of dolls in hot pink packaging to get their cart under the price limit. Boys tended to fill their carts with toy guns and police playsets.

"Typically, it's pandemonium," said Fauquier Lt. Ray Acors, "a lot of kids running all over and spending a lot of money. By the time we take them home, they're falling asleep in our cruisers."

Long-timers and officers with families, like First Sgt. Sal Torelli, had an easier time with their partners than the first-timers and bachelors. Deputy James McGee shopped for a three-year-old who wasn't present. One of the items on the list was simply the word "Spongebob."

McGee gestured to a toddler-sized, stuffed Spongebob chair in his cart, furrowing his brow.

"He said 'Spongebob,' so I got him 'Spongebob,'" McGee said.

Some of the children knew exactly what they wanted for themselves. Fauquier Detective Strick Payne's partner for the day pulled him all over the store to find a Barbie Camper. Others bought presents for their friends and family. A boy with Fauquier Capt. Charles Bopp bought a locket for his mother with the inscription "I love you."

"It's all about the kids," Bopp said. "If we don't pay attention to the kids now, we're going to miss a lot of opportunities."

Many of the officers kept a running cost total on calculator apps on their mobile phones. Some of them ran over their limit, paying the balance out of their own pockets. After the shopping was complete, kids and cops went over to Fauquier High School's cafeteria, where volunteers wrapped the children's hauls, fed them breakfast, provided arts and crafts and some one-on-one time with Santa Claus.

One of the children, a 12-year-old girl, had staked out the Walmart before the event, deciding what to get in advance. She seemed impressed with her partner, Fauquier Detective Cory Ashby.

"Look at him, he's huge," she said.

The Times-Democrat asked her how she felt to sit in a cafeteria surrounded by law enforcement. She thought for a moment.

"Safe," she said.
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