Bunnell, FL – The Flagler County sheriff didn’t hold back when he shredded Target Corporation for cancelling a planned “Shop with a Cop” event at its Palm Coast store and accused the company of having “taken the path of political expediency.”
Now, Target has told The Police Tribune that the whole thing was a big mistake.
Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly called Target out for displaying Grinch-like behavior in a public letter on Dec. 15, according to a post on the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office’s (FCSO) official Facebook page.
Sheriff Staly said the problem started when the sheriff’s department got a letter from Target in October that said the already-planned event to support children in the community in need was cancelled.
“We were told Target ‘retired’ the ‘Heroes & Helpers’ program and was ‘introducing a new give-back program to serve our communities, anchored to our purpose of helping families discover the joy of everyday life,’” the sheriff wrote to the CEO. “We’ll be expanding our impact and reach, partnering directly with local nonprofits organizations across the country to provide families in need with essentials, gifts and more.”
The sheriff’s department reached out to Target to inform them that the Sheriff’s Children’s Charities was, in fact, a nonprofit 501(C)(3) and should therefore qualify for the assistance, according to the letter.
Sheriff Staly wrote that Target ignored the email and they never heard back.
But the event had already been planned, officers had been recruited, and invitations had been sent to the appropriate families so the sheriff reached out to another business in the community, Target’s biggest competitor, Walmart.
“As the Target Corporation displayed ‘Grinch’ like behavior in cancelling the partnership at the last minute we went to your competitor Walmart who welcomed us with open arms,” the sheriff wrote. “On December 10, 2021, we took over 125 culturally diverse children partnered with over 125 law enforcement, corrections and professional support employees shopping.”
The sheriff explained to the Target boss in the letter that it was an all-day event that started with a party, face-painting, and a snowball fight between the children and law enforcement officers.
He said the officers made a parade of children in patrol cars with flashing lights and sirens blaring as they went on their shopping trip after the party, and pointed out “ironically, we drove by Target on our way to Walmart.”
“I am very proud of our employees and their support for the nonprofit Flagler Sheriff’s Children’s Charities. Annually, our employees donate over $30,000.00 to support the two official charities of Flagler Sheriff’s Children’s Charities – Shop with a Cop and the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranches,” Sheriff Staly said in his letter. “For this event they donated almost $16,000.00. Community supporters donated as well and together each child received $175.00 to buy presents for themselves, their brothers, sisters, moms, and dads.”
“Many ‘chaperones’ took money out of their own pockets when the children selected gifts totaling over the limit to bring a smile to a child’s face,” he added.
The kids ate hot dogs with their law enforcement partners after their shopping sprees and then got taken home in patrol vehicles, according to the letter.
“For siblings who could not go shopping our team gave them bags full of donated toys so they did not feel left out and we made every effort to care for the entire family,” the sheriff explained to Target. “This was a team effort, a partnership between the law enforcement community and Walmart. This is community policing and building bridges with our future at its best! A concept you have apparently abandoned by cancelling your partnership with law enforcement for the holidays.”
Sheriff Staly made it clear in his letter that he was angry with the corporation and not his local Target store where the event was supposed to be held.
He said deputies enjoyed a positive relationship with the employees at the Palm Coast store and said they were just as disappointed that the “Shop with a Cop” had been cancelled.
“The ‘Heroes & Helpers’ program was a proven mechanism which built relationships with first responders, the community and Target,” the sheriff wrote. “It appears the Target Corporation has taken the path of political expediency throwing away an established relationship and a proven program for no gain.”
He called the company’s decision to cancel the program “ill-conceived and short sighted.”
But when The Police Tribune reached out to Target Corporation for comment, a spokesman told us that the whole thing was a big mistake.
“Unfortunately, a miscommunication earlier this year resulted in the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office being told that Target was retiring our Heroes & Helpers program,” the statement from Target read.
“We’ve reached out to the sheriff’s office to apologize for this miscommunication,” the spokesman continued. “In fact, Target is supporting Heroes & Helpers this year in partnership with first responders across the country, including firefighters, paramedics, EMTs and law enforcement.”
“In Flagler [County] specifically, we worked with the local fire department and donated $5,000 to purchase gifts for underserved children in the community. In addition, we’ve donated more than $1 million nationwide and helped more than 4,000 families through our new community giving program, the Great Gifttogether. We also made a $1 million contribution to Toys For Tots to support even more kids in 2021,” Target said in the statement.
“As members of the Palm Coast community, Target appreciates the work the sheriff’s office is doing to make the holiday season brighter for those who need it most,” the company said.
The Police Tribune reached out to Sheriff Staly to see what he had to say about Target’s claim the whole thing was a “miscommunication” but had not received a response at publication time.