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Local Students ‘Shop With a Cop’

Customers at Target on Colorado Boulevard may have noticed several Pasadena Police officers strolling the aisles during a recent Friday afternoon. The concentrated presence of local law enforcement did not inspire panic inside the popular retail chain, but rather smiles. Accompanying each officer was a Pasadena Unified School District student as part of the “Shop With a Cop” event, which provided area youth with money to spend on back-to-school clothes and supplies as well as an opportunity to befriend the police.
The Pasadena Rotary Club sponsored “Shop With a Cop” by distributing gift cards worth $100 to each of the 20 participating teens from the city’s Boys and Girls Club.
“It’s really important because I think police and community relations are key, especially in the last few years,” said Pasadena Rotary Club President Sheldon Capeloto. “There’s really been a need and an emphasis to let kids know that police officers are human beings and that they’re here to help. … We’re proud to be part of that effort. It also gives the kids an opportunity to do some shopping with some money that they might not necessarily have. It’s kind of a win-win in that regard.”
After meeting next to a large Pasadena Police trailer in the second-floor parking lot for photos and words of encouragement from Chief Phillip Sanchez, the students participated in a shopping spree that lasted for more than an hour inside the two-story store. Officers pushed bright-red carts and assisted the students with their decisions about what to purchase for the upcoming school year. Sanchez partnered with William Baez, a 13-year-old from Washington Middle School who opted to buy a soccer ball, among other items. Following check-out, Sanchez offered Baez his business card and promised to attend the teen’s middle school graduation next year.
“It’s really just so critical,” Sanchez said following the event. “There are national issues concerning police-community relations, but I don’t see any of the critics here today. We do a lot of this kind of community outreach day in and day out. … If we engage our young people and they really get to know the police department, then they’re going to be in a better place to evaluate what we do and how we engage people.”
It was the Pasadena Rotary Club’s third installment of “Shop with a Cop,” with the inaugural program occurring last August at the same location. The organization also committed $1,000 for a similar drive during the holidays. Although “Shop With a Cop” is a relatively new phenomenon in the Pasadena area, the initiative has been in place at other Targets around the country for the past several years.
The majority of the teen shoppers came from economically challenged environments, and they received badges to match their uniformed counterparts. Victoria Pastor, a freshman at John Muir High School, appreciated the partnership between the Pasadena Rotary Club and the Pasadena Police Department.
“It was really thoughtful of them to bring their money to spend on us because some people don’t really have money to spend like that,” said the 15-year-old. “I just thought it was really nice of them to give back to people.”
“They’re really friendly. A lot of people are kind of scared of cops, but they’re just like your friends.”

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