Bunnell, FL – Target tried to blame a “miscommunication” for its cancellation of its support for the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office’s “Shop with a Cop” event but the sheriff told The Police Tribune the store’s response was “pure propaganda and trying to re-write history” because the real problem is “a corporate policy targeted against law enforcement community partnerships.”
The big box store first found itself the target of Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly’s ire after the corporate headquarters notified his office in October that Target had cancelled the company’s “Heroes & Helpers” program that was slated to support this year’s “Shop with a Cop” event.
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.
Walmart came to the rescue and helped make the shopping spree designed to build relationships between law enforcement and the community they serve a raging success.
Afterwards, Sheriff Staly posted to the sheriff’s department’s Facebook page an open letter to the chief executive officer of Target telling him what had happened.
Sheriff Staly said the letter from Target claimed the company had “‘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.’”
He said the letter from Target said it would “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.
“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 Police Tribune reached out to Target for comment on the sheriff’s post and a company spokesperson replied with a statement that called the entire debacle a “miscommunication.”
“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.
But Sheriff Staly told The Police Tribune on Tuesday that Target never apologized to his department for canceling its support for “Shop with a Cop” event, or even followed up with them about it.
“Thank you for sending us Target PR Department’s response as they have not sent anything to me or my Agency in response to my letter and email,” Sheriff Staly wrote in an email. “Based on Target’s response to you this is pure propaganda and trying to re-write history.”
The sheriff sent The Police Tribune a copy of the email from Target that announced “we are retiring our Heroes & Helpers program” and introducing a new program.
He also disputed Target’s account of its philanthropy through other agencies in Flagler County.
“As to their claim of supporting a local fire department in Flagler County with a donation of $5,000 there is, again, a grain of truth in an attempt to change and deflect the bad public relations they are receiving from my letter,” Sheriff Staly wrote.
“The facts are this: the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office has been taking kids shopping for over 10 years. The local fire department they are referencing has held a Christmas party for kids at a local community center for two years. This year was to be their third year and they applied for a grant from Target,” the sheriff explained in his email.
He said Target had given the fire department a cash grant paid by a check for the past two years to help buy stuffed animals, toys and more to give to the children.
Sheriff Staly told The Police Tribune that this year, the local fire department had planned to buy “fire dog plushies” to give to each child in addition to toys.
He said the fire department had arranged to buy these plushies from EmmaLovesK9s.com, a company founded by a local Gold Star family’s surviving 13-year old daughter with proceeds benefiting law enforcement K9s, using the expected grant from Target.
“Target denied the fire department’s grant but did give them $5,000 in Target gift cards,” Sheriff Staly explained. “This cancelled the fire dog plushy order from the Gold Star family and forced the fire department to use the gift cards only at the local Target store to purchase toys for the Christmas party. This in effect cost Target far less than the gift card face value.”
“At least they did something for the fire department but their action verified my opinion that canceling our Shop with a Cop was the result of a corporate policy targeted against law enforcement community partnerships for political convenience and correctness,” the sheriff told The Police Tribune.
“While Target can say that some stores continued with Shop with a Cop events, many Target stores did not and law enforcement agencies across America were forced to go elsewhere, mostly to Walmart, so children could still have a Christmas,” he continued in his email.
Sheriff Staly encouraged people to go to Target.com and check out the “Corporate Responsibility” and read about the Target Forward strategy guiding the company’s vision, policies, and more to find out what Target is really about rather than relying on “a PR machine’s rhetoric trying to re-write facts and history to save their image.”
The Police Tribune reached out to Target for a response to the sheriff’s comments but had not received a response back at publication time.