Ocala police officers hand out $100 bills instead of tickets
Drivers surprised during operation 'Secret Santa'
OCALA, Fla. – Ocala police officers are getting results this month one surprise at a time during "Operation OPD Secret Santa."
When residents get stopped by a police officer, sometimes they think the worst.
"I'll explain it. You're not in trouble," one officer said during a Secret Santa interaction on Thursday.
Instead of handing out tickets, Ocala police officers temporarily traded in their badges to work for Santa Claus. They acted as his elves to spread holiday cheer.
"On behalf of the Ocala Police Department and some anonymous donors, we'd like to give you a holiday treat," an officer said.
"Are you serious?" a recipient who was parked in a Family Dollar parking lot said.
The Police Department and anonymous donors raised $4,200. During a period of four days this month, they stopped people on the streets, in parking lots, and even pulled some drivers over.
Some were skeptical, while others were nervous that officers stopped them. But they were all surprised and many overwhelmed by the gesture.
"There have been a lot of tears, there's been a lot of hugs exchanged and just general joy coming from both the officers and the citizens," Ocala Police Department spokeswoman Meghan Shay said.
Each hug and handshake is a chance to impact a life, she said.
Ocala officers gave $100 to a couple who said they were almost homeless and planned to use the money to pay for a hotel.
Many recipients said they would buy gifts for their children.
Officers also gifted money to the Santas, a couple with the famous name, who said they would donate the money.
"Thank you so much. God bless you," a recipient said.
Shay said this is more than a monetary gift to the Police Department.
"The best part, in my opinion, has been just allowing our citizens to see our officers for who they are: compassionate people who love every person in this city and want to care for them and ultimately put their lives on the line to do that," Shay said.
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