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Santa Cop's last Christmas

January 1, 2017 02:36 PM
Brooklyn Park's former Crime Prevention Officer Steve Flesland's final jolly good time
Brooklyn Park's former Crime Prevention Officer Steve Flesland's final jolly good time
© City of Brooklyn Park

BPPD’s Santa Cop retires after 25 years

Twenty-five years ago, Brooklyn Park Crime Prevention Officer Steve Flesland was struck by an idea. While interacting with the community during the holiday season, he noticed something that was lacking.

“I saw a need to spread some cheer,” he said.

That year, Flesland asked Santa whether he might be able to go into the community on his behalf and deliver gifts to people he encountered. Santa agreed. After all, it’s his busiest season.

What happened next proved to be a fruitful experience. No, really. Flesland picked up a Santa suit and a case of oranges from a local grocery store and headed out in his squad car. He visited senior citizens and businesses in a local mall with the goal to meet and visit with people, handing out the oranges and candy canes to whoever he could. Little did he know at the time, it was the birth of what is now the Brooklyn Park Police Department’s Santa Cop program.

“Apparently, some people thought that was a pretty good idea,” laughed Flesland. “We’ve been doing it ever since. Now we go into homes.”

Every year since, the Brooklyn Park Police Department gets a list of names from school teachers, nurses, district employees, and police officers of children or families that need extra help during the holiday season.

“The circumstances are so different for every family,” said Crime Prevention Officer Gerry Gibbs, who explained that some families need financial help to buy gifts, food, or just a visit to spread holiday cheer during a time of grieving.

This year, the Santa Cop program served 25 homes and 75 children throughout Brooklyn Park by delivering packages tailored to the specific needs of each home. All items included in the packages are a result of unsolicited community donations.

“It’s the most rewarding thing we do,” said Gibbs. “The best part of the program is they don’t even know we’re coming.”

Since the program started in 1992, the Santa Cop officers have never been asked to leave a home.

“I think it means an awful lot to the families,” added Flesland, who has long since retired from the Police Department. It also means a lot to him, which is why he returns year after year to help Santa. But, after 25 years he’s calling it quits.

Before heading out one last time, the Police Department offered Flesland a few parting gifts. In turn, as tears welled in his eyes, he told them a number of heartfelt stories from his time delivering gifts.

Although Flesland will no longer be the one delivering gifts, the program he started long ago is stronger than ever. We have Officer Flesland to thank for that.

 

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