When Santa rolled into the parking lot of the Westminster Walmart, he came not with eight tiny reindeer, but a cavalcade of motorcycle officers.
“No reindeer today,” someone commented.
“Impressive sleigh,” another noticed of Santa’s ride, a West County SWAT BearCat armored vehicle.
The moment marked the beginning of the 16th annual Shop with a Cop, a community outreach event organized by the Westminster Police Officers’ Association in conjunction with Fountain Valley police and the Boys & Girls Club.
The event paired about 40 children, many from the Boys & Girls Club, with Westminster and Fountain Valley police personnel as they perused the aisles of the Beach Boulevard Walmart looking for gifts. Each child received a donated $100 Walmart gift card, as well as a McDonald’s breakfast and additional $100 Stater Bros. gift card to be spent later.
About 20 Westminster police personnel participated.
Sgt. Phuong Pham, a 21-year Westminster police veteran, thanked Walmart and Stater Bros. for their donations, calling Shop with a Cop a true team effort.
“In police work, it’s a collaborative effort,” he said. “It takes a whole community.”
Pham, who accompanied 5-year-old Michael Jersin on his shopping spree, noted that many children weren’t just buying toys for themselves; they were getting gifts for their siblings and parents, too.
“I know what it feels like not to have a lot of stuff,” Pham added, referring to his own childhood. “There are people out there who care. I think that’s what we want to show them, that we do care about them. We also want them to see us in a different light.
“We want to show them we’re not scary officers. We are helpers.”
Ngan Pham, a 17-year-old Westminster Police Explorer who wants to join law enforcement and the military, said she enjoys her role in helping the community.
“You can go around helping the kids, finding gifts for them,” she said. “It’s very cool.”
Sandra Barrera and Lucy Gevorgvan, police records specialists, accompanied Amanda Lopez, 10, on her shopping trip. They visited the games aisle, passing by the various “Monopoly” editions and “Olaf’s Ice Adventure.”
Barerra said she loves helping the children and enjoys the bonding experience.
“We show the community that we’re here to help them,” she said, “to have a moment from our busy jobs and spend time with them.”
Detective Jerad Kent, a 12-year department veteran, said he participates in Shop with a Cop every year.
His paired child, Jonathan Amador, 8, got particularly excited when finding a blue “Star Wars” lightsaber.
“I’ll take that!” Jonathan said, excitedly.
Kent noted how each holiday season the event helps families.
“We can give them a little something,” he said, “a little joy during the holiday season.”