After tracking down a fugitive from Texas and making an early-morning arrest, Officer Dean Bennett found time to help fellow Broomfield police pick out princess dolls and battery-powered race cars.

Bennett, who has spent the last 15 of his nearly 20-year career in Broomfield, had wanted to shop for the Santa Cops program for years, but had previously always been out on calls. On Friday morning, he joined about a dozen others who volunteered to fill Christmas wish lists for more than 100 local children.

"Little Pet Shop," he read from one of his tags. "That sounds like something my niece would want."

In the past, he delivered wrapped presents to the homes of families on the Broomfield Police Department's list — a practice that has since gone away.

"This way it's coming from Santa or mom and dad," he said.

As he searched for toys in a Walmart aisle lined with pink boxes, 5-year-old Alexis Martinez came up to say hello. Bennett smiled, returned the greeting and offered her a silver sticker in the shape of a badge.

"Now you're part of the team," her aunt Jamie Gemmel told her later as she placed it over her heart.

Connecting children with local officers is one goal of Santa Cops, a program that encourages officers to buy presents for Broomfield children whose parents need a little help around the holiday season.

Sgt. Steve Griebel, one of the organizers, said the department received requests for 225 children — nearly double last year's total.


"We have no idea why the uptick in numbers," he said. "We sent out the requests and the same information to schools each year. Some years we get quite a few, some years the number drops."

Infants to 16-year-olds are eligible for gifts, which are purchased in connection with the Broomfield Rotary Club, which sets aside $5,000 each year to cover the shopping spree.

This year, the total came out to $3,632.

Broomfield Police Property and Evidence Technician Carla Meszaros wraps a gift as part of the Santa Cops program Friday in Broomfield. This year the
Broomfield Police Property and Evidence Technician Carla Meszaros wraps a gift as part of the Santa Cops program Friday in Broomfield. This year the program will serve 87 families including 225 children, Broomfield Police Sgt. Steven Griebel said. (Matthew Jonas / Staff Photographer)

Nominations come in all year as officers learn of families that are struggling. Organizers also reach out to Broomfield Health and Human Services for referrals, Griebel said, but keep their own contributions to presents. If families need clothes, shoes or rent assistance, they're directed to organizations that can help.

Leading up to the shopping day, officers had picked more than 100 tags, hung on trees at the police station and jail, and filled those individually. Those remaining, which listed a child's age, gender and gift preference, were taken care of Friday.

Carts full of Barbies, Nerf guns and art kits piled up as shoppers worked alone, or in pairs, to collect presents.

Officer Meredith Durham her daughter Chloe and grandson Brayden, who sat inside the shopping cart and helped hold tickets, worked as a team.

"He's done this every single year for four years," Durham said. "He came as a baby in a carrier."

Brayden exclaimed over each toy as it was dropped into the cart, including a PAW Patrol inflatable ball pit.

Families that submitted names can pick up presents from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 18 through 21 at the Police Department, 7 Descombes Drive. An officer will hand out the wrapped presents, visit with families and give children a candy cane.

Santa Cops has been ongoing and growing since 2007, Griebel said. Before that, Broomfield was part of the KYGO Christmas Crusade for Children, a program that is still ongoing and one that serves children in the North Metro Denver area.

Several local businesses donate money each year to the Rotary to help fund this program, Griebel said, which the department absolutely appreciates. Also, this year, Starbucks at FlatIron Crossing Mall held a toy drive specifically for the department.

Officers and rotary members gathered again at 1 p.m. during police roll call to help wrap presents.

"It's just kind of a neat feeling to have these people show up and give their time and effort to kids that need some help," Griebel said.

Jennifer Rios: 303-473-1361, or