Western Ky Officers Issue Christmas Cheer In Lieu Of Citations
Two western Kentucky law enforcement officers in a Calloway County Sheriff’s Office cruiser were conducting traffic stops in Murray on Monday, but they issued gift cards instead of tickets.
A black police cruiser would swing in behind vehicles at the local Walmart shopping center, lights on, with a short blare of the siren. As motorists began digging for their driver’s license and proof of insurance, two officers wearing Santa hats and mile-wide grins would approach the vehicle. One officer was Deputy Todd Clere with the Calloway County Sheriff’s Office and president of Murray’s Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 23. The other was Detective Don Bowman with the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office and vice president of FOP Lodge 23.
Clere said his organization wanted to do something extra special this year to spread Christmas cheer in the community.
“Especially for this year with COVID, with people having a hard time, we wanted to do a little bit extra beyond the Shop With a Cop, so we decided to do this and make people’s holidays a little bit better,” he said.
Bowman said FOP Lodge 23 typically hosts Shop With a Cop for children in Murray and Calloway County, but the ongoing pandemic prevented them from being able to host the event in person. Instead, the organization donated gift cards to 70 Calloway County families. Those gift cards, combined with the gift cards randomly distributed Monday, totaled in excess of $10,000.
Angel Clere, Sgt. Investigator with the Murray Police Department and state trustee for FOP Lodge 23, said the lodge conducts a number of fundraising events throughout the year, several local businesses make donations, and the organization utilizes a company that makes calls on their behalf to collect donations. She said a portion of the funds are used to keep the lodge going, but a large portion are put back into the community through events like Shop With a Cop, Project Graduation, and sponsoring softball and baseball teams.
Todd Clere and Bowman issued more than $2,000 in Visa gift cards in approximately two hours. The gift cards were worth $100 each. Angel Clere said they chose Visa gift cards hoping people would use them to shop local.
“It's so important that we shop local, you know, and try to help our local people,” she said. “With a Visa gift card, if they want to shop at some of our boutiques, or some of our small businesses, they're able to so they can support our community.”
More than one gift card recipient cried when Todd Clere and Bowman explained why they had been ‘pulled over.’ Mary Crysler got out of her vehicle to hug both Todd Clere and Bowman. She explained that she has three grandchildren in her care right now, and said the gift card would go a long way in helping.
Julia Garland, whose daughter Emery Ryan was in the back seat, covered her face to hide her tears. She said she was grateful for the gift, but also felt inspired.
“I was thinking, ‘Do I have a tail light out? Did I not make a complete stop at the stop sign?’ I don’t know, I was not expecting this. It was a very nice surprise, very generous and thoughtful. Makes me want to give it back, pay it forward,” she said.
Reginald Kendall from nearby Hazel said when he saw the blue lights, he immediately started wondering what he could’ve done wrong. He said the officers caught him on his way into the store to purchase gifts for his family.
“Man, yeah it’s a total surprise and I’ve been telling everybody, I got that Christmas spirit but this to happen, oh man, thank you so much.”