Police officers play Santa

By Tony Parra: Freedom Newspapers

PORTALES — Police officers say it’s a change of pace to be able to knock on someone’s door and deliver good news instead of bad news.

Portales police officers are delivering good news through the seventh annual Operation Santa Cop program. Through the program, police officers are going to homes and delivering presents to Roosevelt County teenagers and children.

The program has been growing since its inception when police officers delivered gifts to 50 children. Portales police Capt. Lonnie Berry said last year police officers delivered toys to 250 children in Portales. Berry said this year they delivered to more than 350 children.

“It’s a great program,” Portales Police Department patrol Sgt. Brack Rains said. “We’ve been really successful.”

Rains said in one instance, officers served a warrant and six children were caught up in the traumatic circumstances of having to watch the officers arrest household members.

“Unfortunately kids get caught in the middle,” Rains said. “Sometimes parents tell their children they’re going to call law enforcement if they don’t behave. There are too few times when kids see us in a positive light.”

Rains, along with police officer David Meeks, made a trip to Olivia Lucero’s house to deliver a toy to 10-month-old Cruz Valdez.

“It’s good for the kids that otherwise don’t get presents,” Lucero said. “I think it’s going to be a good Christmas for a lot of kids.”

This year will be the first for Lucero with her son, and she said the infant already has had a great experience this holiday season. Lucero said her son’s grandparents spoil him.

Police officers are able to provide the program with the help of cash and toy donations from other Portales groups. Berry said local business groups and school organizations have helped with donations.

Bicycles, basketballs, footballs, board games, remote-controlled cars, Cabbage Patch Kids, watches and Bratz Dolls were some of the toys in the Portales Police Department ready to go out to children.

Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Department deputies help out with deliveries to places in the county, Berry said.

Through word of mouth, the program has grown and more people have asked about donating to the program each holiday season, he said.

The officers arrive in some homes where people are living in poor conditions, and police officers try to help in any way possible.

“They offer any assistance they can give,” Berry said. “They’ll come back and ask if there’s something we can do to help people in need of food or in need of something else besides presents.”