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(Enlarge) Long arm gets the law -- that's what Det. Jeffrey Schuster learned as he can’t quite get away without being tagged by his new friend, Jonathan Smith. Westminster Police officers and Carroll Spring School students shared a morning of fun on July 30 during a back-to-school version of the department’s Shop with a Cop program. (Photo by Phil Grout)

Carroll Springs School second-grader Jonathan Smith ran with a red soccer ball in hand, excited to play a version of tag with some friends.

"Hey, buddy! Wanna play?" he said, filled with enthusiasm.

His "buddy" for the day was Det. Jeffrey Schuster of the Westminster Police Department.

"I'm ready to go," Schuster responded, and the two were off.

City officers spent the morning of July 30, playing soccer and board games, building Lego kits, donating school supplies and eating lunch with students at Carroll Springs, as part of the department's first-ever Shop With A Cop Back-to-School Day.

Carroll Springs, located in Westminster, hosts students who are behaviorally, physically and developmentally challenged, said teacher Dannielle Midkiff.

The day was seen as a way for students to help build bond and trust with officers, she said.

"They don't have a lot of interactions with the police," she said.

Police Chief Jeffrey Spaulding said positive interactions with law enforcement officers are vital for children, especially for those who might not have the best view of police from personal experiences.

"I think it's very critical to participate with these children who have behavioral issues," he said. "They may act out in public and people might call the police, and there's a barrier already built up."

But at Thursday's event, the officers had one clear message for the students, he said: Police are here to help.

"If you have a problem, you can always go to a police officer," he said.

The back-to-school edition of Shop with a Cop was based on the success of the department's annual Christmas program, said Sgt. Keith Benfer, who helped organize the drive.

The department had more donations and funds, so officers decided to see what could be done for the start of the school year, he said.

Five Below, Target, Walmart and the semi-pro football team, Carroll County Cannons, each donated school supplies, while The Greene Turtle and Chick-fil-A provided refreshments and lunch.

Earlier in the day, fourth-grader Zachary Santmire sported his new Carroll County Cannons No. 87 jersey while trying to put together a Lego tow-truck.

A wheel here and there occasionally flew off, but he was determined to have that truck rolling in action.

As he tried to snap an axle together, Zachary explained that he wasn't always trusting of officers.

"Before, I wasn't sure if they were coming to get me or not," he said.

Zachary said his mom told him to be nice to the officers, and she assured him that they're good people, he said.

He warmed up to the officers, entertaining them with his playful attitude and joking nature.

To his right, Capt. Nancy Yeager was also playing with Legos, but said she wasn't really sure what she was building — except building friendships with the students.

"It's very rewarding," she said.


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