File photo / The Natchez Democrat — Natchez Police Chief Danny White helps  a child find a jacket in the Walmart Supercenter in Natchez during the annual Santa Cop event.
File photo / The Natchez Democrat — Natchez Police Chief Danny White helps a child find a jacket in the Walmart Supercenter in Natchez during the annual Santa Cop event.

Season of Wishes: Santa Cop delivers for children

Published 12:06am Tuesday, December 3, 2013

NATCHEZ — Santa is usually portrayed as a fat man with a big white beard and a red suit. But for some children in the Miss-Lou, Santa comes with a badge and a gun.

For more than two decades, the Natchez chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police has sponsored Santa Cop, a program in which police officers accompany needy children to pick out clothes, toys and groceries during the holiday season.

Natchez FOP Vice President Jerry Ford said the group works with school counselors, Catholic Charities and other organizations to select eligible children.

“We try to take as many kids as possible, but it all depends on the amount of donations we get, so we are encouraging people to give and give generously,” he said.

During the Santa Cop event, the FOP pairs a child with a local law enforcement officer — more departments than just Natchez participate — and treat the child to breakfast before taking them shopping.

After the shopping is done, the group takes the children to Natchez Regional Medical Center for lunch and a photo with Santa.

“We really want to make the kids happy and give them something positive to go on,” Ford said.

“There are a lot of kids out there whose parents are not working and who really need the help, so those donations we get are what we are able to utilize to make sure those kids get not only some of the things they wish for, but also some of the necessities they need like coats or clothing to help them through the winter — some of them really need those types of items.”

Ford said the group aims to do Santa Cop on Dec. 21 and would like to have all of its donations in order by Dec. 15.

“The funds haven’t been coming in that great this year, but we are asking for businesses and individuals to still donate and make Christmas a success for these kids,” he said.

Santa Cop is about more than just putting a smile on the face of a child, though. Ford said it’s a good way for law enforcement officers to reinforce to members of the community they are on the community’s side.

“We like to show the community there is another side of policing besides bringing people to jail and writing a ticket,” he said. “We do have hearts and we like to give back to the community, and this is one of our ways of giving back.

“When you can do something good to show the community you care about them, then a lot of times people will have a better perception about the police department than thinking we are the bad guys coming to take them to jail, and we want these kids to know the police are here to help you.”

Santa Cop needs donations. Checks can be made out to the Natchez Fraternal Order of Police — Shop with a Cop/Santa Cop and mailed to PO Box 97, Natchez, MS 39120. Those seeking further information can reach Ford at 601-445-7543.