Christmas Magic & Community Kindness



This holiday season, we’re focusing on some of the pillars of our community: Syracuse police officers. Even though they’re on the job this 24th and 25th, they have some fun traditions every year. You might even want to try some of these festivities yourself.

Every year, the department puts on a Christmas party. It isn’t your typical work party, either. They always have a meal together for their members and their children. Sometimes it’s catered, sometimes Chief of Police Garret Atkin, himself, is behind the grill. This year, they’ll be making breakfast and inviting everyone to come in their pajamas. Between 80 to 100 people turn up every year.

Next, they all get together to make a craft. One year, they made tiny teddy bears holding candy canes. Another time, they put together train cars and let the train loose in the lobby of the police department. Garret once even went as far as collecting pictures of every child, converting them into Peanuts characters, and then everyone made popsicle stick frames for them. The craft always complements the theme of the party. Whatever the craft, every one of them goes on display on the department’s Christmas tree. The tree sits in the lobby for everyone to admire during the season. Then, when the tree is thrown out, all the crafts are returned to the families who made them.

The highlight of the party is their annual snowball fight. Now, in Syracuse, we can’t always rely on a healthy snow supply, so our officers get creative. Instead of snow, they used crumpled-up pieces of paper. They split everyone up randomly into two teams. Then, they split up the squad room. Whichever team gets the most snowballs on the other side wins. However, there’s also a twist.

Among the white paper snowballs, there are also a handful of yellow ones. If anyone gets hit with one of the yellow snowballs, they’re immediately disqualified and ejected from the fight. While the food is good and the crafts are beautiful, everyone comes to the party anticipating this climax to the party.

Another longtime celebrated tradition is “Cops and Kids.” It’s a charity event involving children who are most often at-risk, disadvantaged, or have experienced a negative situation with law enforcement. First, they have a meal at a restaurant with an officer. They can order whatever they’d like because the restaurants happily sponsor the event. Next, they ride with the officers in their patrol car, with the lights on and sirens blaring. It’s a chauffeur ride that most people don’t get to experience. After a quick ride, they arrive at a retail store. Once there, the child can pick out whatever they’d like. The store generously sponsors the entire shopping trip, although Garrett admits most officers end up chipping in their own money as well. After spending an entire afternoon together, these officers are happy to treat these children.

“It’s fun to see them shy at first and maybe timid and not sure what’s going on. By the time breakfast is done, they get very excited,” Garret said. “Then, you get the ones that don’t know that they’re there for a reason. They’re like ‘I need to get this for my little sister, for my mom.’”

Cops and Kids is organized by the Fraternal Order of Police. It is not a traditional labor union, but an organization of cops, from the top down. In addition, they are not beholden to any political party or outside organization. On their website, they say, “everything we do has the interests of the profession at heart. No other national affiliated organization in Utah can make that claim.”

As a 501(c)(8) nonprofit corporation, they have chapters all over the country. In 1915, the life of a policeman was bleak. In many communities, they were forced to work 12-hour days, 365 days a year. Police officers didn’t like it, but there was little they could do to change their working conditions. There were no organizations to make their voices heard and no other means to make their grievances known.

This soon changed, thanks to the courage and wisdom of two Pittsburgh patrol officers. Martin Toole and Delbert Nagle knew they must first organize police officers, like other labor interests, if they were to be successful in making life better for themselves and their fellow police officers. They and 21 willing others met on May 14, 1915, and held the first meeting of the Fraternal Order of Police. As they told their city mayor, Joe Armstrong, the FOP would be the means “to bring our grievances before the Mayor or Council and have many things adjusted that we are unable to present in any other way . . . we could get many things through our legislature that our Council will not or cannot give us.”

Therefore, they pursue charitable events that no other legislature or city council could organize. From that small beginning, the Fraternal Order of Police began growing steadily. In 1917, the idea of a National Organization of police officers came about. Today, the tradition that was first envisioned over 99 years ago lives on with more than 2,200 local lodges and more than 350,000 members in the United States. The Fraternal Order of Police has become the largest professional police organization in the country and continues to grow, because they are true to the tradition and continue to build on it. Today, the FOP are proud professionals, working on behalf of law enforcement officers from all ranks.

Now, Syracuse police officers don’t have the same complaints as officers in the early 1900s. Their chief carefully balances their shift rotations so all the officers can have some time with their family for the holidays while protecting the community.

As a result of the Syracuse Police Department’s membership in the FOP, they have access to all their sponsors that perpetuate their Cops and Kids program. Several other cities in Davis County also participate. When it comes to this program, it’s important to remember that neither the police department nor the Utah FOP chapter will solicit donations. Unfortunately, some scammers have taken advantage of the “Shop with a Cop” reputation and will try and solicit fake donations. However, people can still participate by visiting their website at

Another organization that helps put on similar charity events all over Utah is the Police Civilian Association. They likewise have similar sponsors to help children have a happy holiday. Above all, their goal is to give officers the opportunity to interact one-on-one with the child. As a result, they take a negative view of law enforcement and turn it into a positive one. In addition to organizing the event during the holiday season, they also put on the event just before the school year. This association also takes donations at

To start off the holiday season, Chief Garret Atkin wants to remind everyone to lock their doors and cars. This is the number-one way to prevent further theft. In addition, he suggests that, if you’re out of town, have a neighbor bring in your packages for you. Many of us are buying our gifts online, and thieves are on the prowl to snatch them away.

“Drive slowly,” Garret said. “If you didn’t get there safely, it doesn’t matter.”

Here at Connection Publishing, we’d like to thank all the Syracuse Police Department. They keep our community safe. We wish you all a happy holiday season.

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