Police officers go holiday shopping with local children

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 21, 2002

NATCHEZ &045; Sometimes Santa doesn’t have a big white beard and

wear a red suit. Sometimes, he wears a badge and carries a gun.

On Saturday morning, a dozen or so off-duty Natchez and Vidalia police officers took some time out of their day to chaperone a shopping trip for a group of local kids who might not have had the chance.

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Law enforcement officers are trained in crowd control techniques, but Natchez Police Officer Cal Green said taking children on a shopping spree is a challenging task.

&uot;It’s kind of hard to keep them focused,&uot; she said. &uot;They want everything. We try to keep it in reason.&uot;

Green, who has participated in Santa Cop for the past five years, said the officers do their best to steer the children toward more sensible purchases like shoes and winter coats instead of just toys.

&uot;We try to get them a little of everything,&uot; she said. &uot;The need the essentials.&uot;

It wouldn’t be Christmas without some toys, though.

Deshonda Thomas, a 6-year-old Frazier Primary first-grader, did buy some practical things, like shampoo and jeans, but she also got a hula hoop.

In its 10th year, the Fraternal Order of Police’s &uot;Santa Cop&uot; program provided 34 children with clothes and toys for the holiday season.

And while the officers do all the grunt work, all the money for the program comes from private donations, and local businesses help out, too.

This year, the children got breakfast at McDonald’s and lunch at Natchez Regional, and Kelly’s Kids handed out gift certificates.

&uot;The community is real generous to us,&uot; said Lt. Tom McGehee, who has been with the program since its inception.

McGehee said it’s always a lot of work to keep track of so many kids, but it’s well worth the effort.

&uot;We’re doing some good, and these kids need it,&uot; he said. &uot;And it’s fun.&uot;