Elizabethton Walmart hosts first annual Shop with a Cop

Published 9:06 am Thursday, December 12, 2019

Despite appearances, police converged at the Walmart in Elizabethton not for a bust or operation. They were there for the same reasons as everyone else who entered the store that evening: to shop, though not for themselves.

Members of law enforcement met to participate in the area’s first Shop with a Cop event, helping underprivileged children shop for Christmas presents as the holiday approaches.

Captain Shane Darling with the Elizabethton Police Department said this is the first time Elizabethton and Carter County have held this kind of event.

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“This is going to be an annual event now,” Darling said.

Roughly 25 children paired up with one officer when they arrived, and the pair would immediately take off down the aisles to find what the child needed.

Officers who attended included members of the EPD, Carter County Sheriff’s Department, Johnson City Police Department and even members of the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

As children toured the aisles, they also had the chance to make cookies with Santa at the bakery section, and when they left, each child got to take home a food basket, thanks to several local churches who volunteered, including First Baptist, Grace Baptist and Cavalry Baptist.

“It is exciting,” he said. “We want this event to grow.”

Other areas like Jonesborough have been doing this kind of program in the past, and Darling said they wanted to get in on the holiday and giving spirit.

“Our interactions with the community are not positive ones,” he said. “We want kids to be able to approach us. We have to have a good relationship with the community.”

For years, he said EPD has received invitations from nearby departments to attend their shop with a cop events, so it felt great to be able to host one of their own.

He said a large part of the event was a way to connect with the community beyond officer and citizen.

“Our officers are part of this community,” Darling said.

Though they were in uniform, each pair of officer and child went through the aisle with smiles on their faces, each of them having fun spending time with each other.