Police Give Free Hugs at Walmart

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From left: Gates Police Department officer Lance Duffy hugs Zachary Rapp, 12, of Greece, NY; the Walmart in Gates, NY was the location for a "Hug A Cop" event on July 16, 2016; Anthony "DJ Baby Boy" Jackson, of Henrietta, NY with Gates Police Department officer J. Coughlin after getting a hug. Photos by Caurie Putnam.

Shoppers at a Walmart outside Rochester, New York were greeted with an usual offer on July 16, 2016: the invitation to hug a cop.

About a dozen officers of the suburban Gates Police Department lined up outside the Gates Walmart - which made national news July 4th weekend for a 30 person brawl - to give and get hugs.

There were many, many takers.

"I think it's a great way to promote good relations between police and the public," said Chuck Rapp, of Greece, New York, who brought his son Zachary Rapp, 12, to get some hugs. "When I was a kid we knew if we got lost or hurt we could run to the police to get help. A lot of kids these days don't feel that way so it's important to show them."

Anthony "DJ Baby Boy" Jackson, of Henrietta, New York, was all about the hugs too.

"This is more of a gratitude type event," said Jackson, about why the event appealed to him. "It's not necessarily about hugging a cop, but talking to them."

Increasing this positive dialogue between police and the public is what inspired James VanBrederode, chief of the Gates Police Department, to team up with Walmart to hold the unique "Hug A Cop" event.

"There is bad perception on a national level about police, but the reality is that we come to work everyday just like everyone else and want to go home just like everyone else" VanBrederode said.

He wanted to say more, but he got pulled away for a hug.