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‘Shop with a cop’ event takes kids on free Walmart spree

Shop with a cop, citrus heights
Lt. Ryan Kinnan, left, takes a student on a trek through the Citrus Heights Walmart during ‘Shop with a cop’, Wednesday.

Updated Dec. 17, 1:37 p.m.–
Calling it an annual favorite event, more than 20 uniformed police officers grabbed a shopping cart and took 14 local students on a $100 shopping spree through the Citrus Heights Walmart Wednesday morning.

“What’s great about the kids is — more often than not — they’re not here just for themselves; they’re here for practical items,” said Citrus Heights Police Lt. Ryan Kinnan, after taking a student through the store. “They’re not loading up on candy, not loading up on toys, not loading up on video games, but actually for things they need.”

Touring down isles for about an hour, kids from age 5 to 17 could be seen picking out items and loading up shopping carts pushed by police officers. One student picked out items while riding on an officer’s shoulders, while a Walmart employee pushed a cart behind them.

Lt. Kinnan said police coordinate with local schools to select students based on their family situation, school behavior, and other criteria. He said students from Woodside, Mariposa, Grand Oaks, Arlington, Carriage Drive and Kingswood elementary schools participated this year; as well as students from Sylvan Middle School and San Juan and Mesa Verde high schools.

“Most of these kids actually start looking for their brothers or sisters [to] buy them something,” said Kinnan, commenting that one girl ended up buying an outfit for her sister and a small toy for her brother.

[Related: CHPD Holiday Referral Program to benefit in-need Citrus Heights families]

Both Walmart Store Manager Nick Gonnella and Citrus Heights Police Chief Christopher Boyd called the annual event one of their “favorites” to participate in each year — one that brings a noticeable smile to officers, kids, and store employees. The cost of the items at checkout is also donated by Walmart each year.

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Police say the annual “Shop with a cop” event is held to build positive relationships with young people and create positive interactions with the community and police.

“Things like this — this is what we do,” Lt. Kinnan said, commenting that people often don’t see police positively interacting with the public. “We go out, we shop with the kids, we laugh, we have families, we coach — this is why we became cops: to help people.”

*Note: KCRA 3 and Univision 19 also provided video coverage of the event. As of 1 p.m. Thursday, only Univision’s coverage was available online. Click here to watch. Video by the San Juan Unified School District from a prior year’s “Shop with a cop” can also be viewed by clicking here.

A pair of Citrus Heights police officers help a young student pick out items during a 'Shop with a cop' event at Walmart, Wednesday. // CH Sentinel
A pair of Citrus Heights police officers help a young student pick out items during a ‘Shop with a cop’ event at Walmart, Wednesday. // CH Sentinel
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