More than 70 kids went home with toys on Thursday night as part of Lathrop Police Services’ annual Cocoa with the Chief event aimed at bringing the community and law enforcement closer together.
And some of those kids will have some new wheels to show off.
According to Lathrop Police Chief Ryan Biedermann, the department gave away 20 bicycles to families who showed up at the annual event at the Lathrop Generations Center – the first in a series of Christmas toy giveaways that the department will be affiliated with over the course of the next two weeks.
While the agency serves as the facilitator for the annual gathering, Biedermann said that it’s the true embodiment of a community event where multiple citizens, businesses, and groups come together to create something memorable for the families who attend.
“We facilitate it, but it’s an event that takes the entire community to pull off – Toys 4 Tots through the Marines gives us toys, and we met a guy from the Bay Area who donated a bunch of bikes and the rest is stuff that we collected throughout the year and held on to,” Biedermann said. “We have businesses like Starbucks that donated a lot, and Target always come through with support. Our guys bought all of the gift bags and the wrapping paper and stuff like that, but it’s a collection of everybody.
“Anything you can do with kids to put a smile on their face and bring them a little something extra is great. We had eight uniformed cops there, and anytime you can humanize law enforcement and show them that we’re just normal people that like to help the community, it’s a good event.”
Most of the time, Biedermann said, families only interact with police when they need their services, and those aren’t always the most pleasant of circumstances – something that the gathering at the Generations Center intended to offset.
By providing children and their parents the opportunity to get to know the officers on a personal level, Biedermann said that the sense of community becomes stronger and people are more willing to reach out when they need help or they can offer it.
“It’s something that brings out the good side of the job for the kids to see and gives them a good impression of who we are and what we do,” Biedermann said. “It’s also a good opportunity to talk to a lot of parents and give them the opportunity to ask questions and find out things about the department and the community as a whole.
“This year we got a lot of good feeback not just about the event, but the job that we’re doing as an agency and that is always something that is nice to hear.”
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