Kids in need get a chance to Shop with a Cop

From Woodinville to Covington and locations in between, groups of kids got to experience some holiday cheer thanks to dedicated members of the King County Sheriff’s Office and the support of various community organizations. Shop with a Cop is a program that takes place across the nation during the holidays and locally is an opportunity for law enforcement to connect with the community.

Photo by Ben VanHouten, courtesy of the Seattle Mariners

The common perception is that when an officer shows up in a neighborhood or at a business it’s because of a disturbance or a traffic accident, or some other adverse activity that’s taken place. An event like lets the public see law enforcement in a way that creates a positive image and memories for the children. 

While the City of Covington office has been hosting Shop with a Cop for many years, it was reinstated in the Skyway community after about 20 years. “I participated in this program in Detroit,” said recent transplant Joshua Storks-Sayles, the Storefront Deputy Sheriff for Skyway. His role as a community liaison is to interact with businesses, schools, and organizations to build positive relationships, from mentoring young people to leading neighborhood projects. They recently held a coat drive and handed out 200 coats, mostly to youth.

“There’s a lot of tension in black and brown communities,” he continued, “Even as a black officer, breaking down barriers starts with kids. These types of events go a long way to building trust,” because they get to see an officer as a normal person who “likes video games, cracking jokes and laughing.”

Photo by Ben VanHouten, courtesy of the Seattle Mariners

Officer Storks-Sayles worked with Alajawan’s Hands foundation and the Black Equality Committee to secure donations from local residents, busines owners and the Walmart Local Community Grant. With the help of area schools and the Creston Point and Green Tree apartments, they identified about 70 children who were given an opportunity to go shopping with an officer at the Renton Walmart Supercenter.

“Besides the connection with officers, students take away key lessons such as financial literacy and budgeting, decision making, and teamwork while shopping,” Storks-Sayles added. For example, families with multiple children used “critical decision-making to put their budgets together for an item that can be used between them all.”

Bringing back a holiday tradition

Last year, the City of Burien and City of SeaTac officers wanted to implement the Shop with a Cop locally, but because of the pandemic “we settled for a drive-through event,” according to Chad Mulligan, Administrative Sergeant for SeaTac office. “This year we got to host a traditional Shop with a Cop where kids show up with families to the Burien Fred Meyers to meet with an officer, go shopping, and have a photo taken with them.”

Coordinating for those locations are Community Service Officers Michiko Wilson, from the Burien office and Regina Burke out of the SeaTac office. Besides working with the local Rotary for donations, they also arrange for volunteers and solicit recommendations for the participants. The children whose names get submitted are identified by local schools and charities, and sometimes officers themselves who have met the kids while in the line of duty.

There were 25 kids from Burien and 25 from SeaTac, plus another 10 who were displaced because of the Hanover Apartment fire. “Those 60 kids are going to have a memory that is unique to them, getting to shop with an officer,” Wilson said. “I’ve seen officers spend their own money to help people, and they don’t ask for recognition. They’re out there on their days off, before or after their shift helping people.”

“Hopefully the public will recognize they’re doing a lot that is positive in the community,” Wilson added.