Cambridge police reach out to local families at Christmastime

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
Cambridge Police Department Operations Captain Justin Todd is organizing projects to benefit children at Christmastime.

CAMBRIDGE — If you happen to be at Walmart on Friday, don’t be too surprised to see patrol vehicles pull up, lights a-flashing, to drop off…small children.

Hmmm.

It’s all done according to plan. The “Shop With a Cop” plan, that is.

“We team up with Walmart, which has been a really big supporter,” Cambridge Police Department (CPD) Capt. Justin Todd said on Thursday.

The program, which has been conducted for some time, involves the CPD raising money through the year, and then buying gift cards for about 20 children. Each youngster gets a card worth $50-$100, depending on how much cash is available.

Then they wait to be picked up for the big shopping spree, during which they can buy items for themselves or others.

“There’s an officer assigned to one or two kids,” Capt. Todd said. “They buy what they want.”

The lesson in generosity and trust bears fruit right away. Capt. Todd said every year, children will set aside some of their money to buy a special present for their mother, sibling, or even their dog.

“It’s just the coolest thing,” he said.

Speaking of something cool — ok, downright cold — officers will take part in the Dorchester Care & Share Santa Swim at the Hyatt Resort on Saturday morning. The fund raises money to make a brighter Christmas for needy families, one way being by swimmers getting pledges as they promise to take a quick dip in the chilly Choptank.

Registration opens at 9:30 a.m. with the swim at 10 a.m.

“We’ll have a team together to support this good cause,” Capt. Todd said.

Then on Dec. 20, there will be a public event at Governor’s Hall, when the CPD presents the 2nd Annual Santa’s Workshop, from 6-8:30 p.m. Children will be welcomed at this free celebration to visit Santa and Mrs. Claus, take photos, enjoy refreshments and get to know city police officers.

So that’s a lot of presents, cookies, swimming and splashing — all by cops. Anyone who remembers the emphasis on police work in the past might wonder what this kind of thing is all about.

“Policing has changed so much over the years,” Capt. Todd said. That means law enforcement officers realize the need to establish positive and productive relationships with citizens.

“We can’t do it without the community,” he said. So policemen and women in Cambridge are making it a point to get to know members of the public, as individuals.

Capt. Todd said CPD Chief Mark Lewis fully supports the outreach and transparency. “He understands the value of the community and their being on our side,” he said.

“We’re willing to work to make this a better place for everyone,” Capt. Todd said. “We’re just real people. We want the same respect we give them.”

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