New Britain, CT – Police officers working with a community group on an annual school supply drive were kicked out of the Target in New Britain on Saturday by a store manager who said he didn’t support police.
Lifelong New Britain resident Timothy Conaway, a co-founder of the community outreach group the Training and Motivation Center (TMC), said his organization first partnered with the New Britain Police Department when they launched the back-to-school fundraiser program seven years ago, WTIC reported.
But this year when Conaway and New Britain police officer arrived to set up for their “Stuff a Cruiser” event at the Target store located in the 400-block of Hartford Road on Aug. 8, the store manager told them they had to leave.
“I told him I was here last year and he didn’t agree or believe me and he told us to leave,” the community activist told WTIC. “We were shocked. The officers were looking like ‘really, you really you want us to leave?’ And he said ‘yes, leave.’”
Conaway said he and the officers left at the Target manager’s request but said they were disappointed and confused by what had happened.
Although the police officers and volunteers from TMC running the school supply drive left without making a stink, the mayor of New Britain quickly put Target on blast when she found out about the incident.
“So our @newbritainpd was trying to do their annual back to school supply drive and the @Target manager told them to leave because he doesn’t support the police. Anyone want to make a donation? #newbritain #comeonmana #itsforthekids,” New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart tweeted on Aug. 11.
So our @newbritainpd was trying to do their annual back to school supply drive and the @Target manager told them to leave because he doesn’t support the police. Anyone want to make a donation? #newbritain #comeonman #itsforthekids 😠
— Mayor Erin Stewart (@erinstewartct) August 11, 2020
New Britain’s Fire Chief Raul Ortiz was one of the first to respond to the incident, WFSB reported.
“I’ll donate. That is unbelievable. Isn’t community policing and involvement what we want more of? Our NBPD has been exceptional in that aspect,” the fire chief tweeted.
Less than an hour later, Stewart posted again and said that the regional manager of the New Britain Target location had called to apologize for what had happened, WFSB reported.
The mayor said the regional manager had also made a personal contribution of $500 to the school supply drive and invited the “Stuff a Cruiser” crew back to the store for a redo on a future date.
Conaway remained positive despite the initial snub and said he hoped the school-supply drive would be even more successful on the second try this year, according to WTIC.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen with school – how many days are going to be gone, but everybody is in need right now,” he said.
Target’s corporate headquarters posted a statement to Twitter on Aug. 12 that called the incident a “misunderstanding.”
“We have a long history of supporting the New Britain community and we’re sorry for the misunderstanding,” Target tweeted. “We’ve talked with police and they’re returning to our store this weekend for their back-to-school drive. In addition, Target’s donating school supplies to support the efforts.”
New Britain police and TMC announced they will be back at the New Britain Target on Saturday and Sunday between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. collecting school supplies the hope will fill up several police cruisers, WFSB reported.
They have requested donations of No. 2 Pencils, ballpoint pens, pencil pouches, erasers, sharpeners, rulers, protractors, scissors, personal calendars, pocket folders, 3-ring binders, 3-hole punches, index cards, subject dividers, White-Out, highlighters, markers, glue sticks, graphing calculators, wide-ruled loose leaf paper, graph paper, drawing paper, watercolor paints, spiral notebooks, staplers, locker accessories, lunchboxes, and backpacks for area students.
The Police Tribune reached out to Target’s corporate headquarters for comment but had not received a response at publication time.
Update: The Police Tribune received a response from Target on Aug. 14.
“Last Saturday, a group of police officers and volunteers were collecting donations outside our store for the drive, which in the past was always coordinated in advance with our store leadership team,” the emailed statement read. “When our team saw the group collecting donations, and wasn’t aware the drive was going to take place that day, we asked for more information. An officer asked our team if they should leave, and we said yes so we could work with them to coordinate the drive together at another time.”
“We spoke with the New Britain Police Department on Monday and Mayor Stewart’s office on Wednesday to clarify what happened, express our continued support for the school supply drive and arrange for them to come back to the store this weekend,” Target’s statement continued. “Additionally, our manager did not, at any time during the conversation, express a lack of support for law enforcement. And as we have for many years, we contributed a gift card and school supplies for this great cause. We’re sorry that this situation has caused frustration in the community and took attention away from the supply drive.”