For Pasadena Interim Police Chief John Perez, narrowing down clues for a case doesn’t often happen in the back-to-school aisle of a Target.
But on a recent Friday, Perez was faced with the task of deciding between a Minecraft lunchbox and Spiderman one.
“Dude, this one rocks,” Perez said to 11-year-old Nick, who agreed and placed the square Minecraft lunch bag in the red shopping cart.
The two of them darted toward the aisle where notebooks, binders and markers awaited them, and also where dozens of uniformed Pasadena police officers could be found doing the exact same task:
The Pasadena Police Department, Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena and Rotary Club of Pasadena partnered together for its 4th annual Shop with a Cop event. Twenty middle-school students from the Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena were selected to receive $100 in back-to-school supplies. But instead of parents helping them decide what to buy, it would be a Pasadena police officer.
“The kids love it. And the cops love it, too,” said Mary Lane Byrne, president of the Rotary Club. “It’s a wonderful and positive experience that kids get to have with the cops, and that’s what we like to see.”
For many of the officers, the Shop with a Cop event is the type of interaction with youth that they would like to continue to see develop. These types of early connections can make lasting impressions on youth as they teeter between childhood and adulthood.
“There’s so much bad news out there about officers, but we want kids to know we are people. We are here to help and we can make a difference,” said Sgt. Glen C. Thompson, who helped coordinate the event.
On Friday, Aug. 24 the aisles of the East Pasadena Target overflowed with police officers who arrived in uniform for the event. There were detectives in their slacks and button-up shirts, bike officers with their sturdy black motorcycle boots and patrolman who had their radios and handguns in their holsters.
Each of them with a shopping cart and an excited kid by their side made their way through the maze of the shopping center in search of everything from blue glitter glue, Emoji backpacks, running shoes, Batman T-shirts, three-ringer binders and dry erase boards that are the perfect size for a locker.
Karla Duran arrived just as her son Nick and Police Chief Perez were paying the cashier at line No. 16. Her son handed her a bouquet of sunflowers and excitedly showed her everything he got for the return to school.
“I feel so blessed,” she said as she watched her son talking to friends in the Target food court. “As a single parent, this helps me so much. But it also helps to have him here talking to the officers. He needs it so much right now. This year was tough for him at school. It’s good for him to be here talking and seeing how police officers take care of people.”