Timothy Conaway, a lifelong New Britain resident and co-founder of Training and Motivation Center, stated that his organization partnered with the New Britain Police Department seven years ago when they launched the back-to-school fundraiser program.
On Saturday, the officers working with the organization on the annual school supply drive were kicked out of the New Britain Target by a manager who stated that he didn’t support police.
The store manager asked Conaway and the New Britain police officer to leave just after they had arrived to set up for the “Stuff a Cruiser” event at the Target store.
“I told him I was here last year and he didn’t agree or believe me and he told us to leave,” Conaway told WTIC. “We were shocked. The officers were looking like ‘really, you really you want us to leave?’ And he said ‘yes, leave.’”
The group left, but Conaway stated that they were disappointed and confused by the incident.
Even though the officers didn’t cause a scene when they left, when the mayor of New Britain, Erin Stewart, found out about the incident, she quickly slammed Target on Twitter.
The August 11 tweet read: “So our @newbritainpd was trying to do their annual back to school supply drive and the @Target manager told them to leave because he doesn’t support the police. Anyone want to make a donation? #newbritain #comeonmana #itsforthekids.”
New Britain’s Fire Chief Raul Ortiz responded first to the tweet: “I’ll donate. That is unbelievable. Isn’t community policing and involvement what we want more of? Our NBPD has been exceptional in that aspect.”
Less than an hour later, Stewart tweeted again, stating that the regional manager of the New Britain Target had called and apologized for the incident. She added that the manager made a personal donation of $500 to the drive and asked the “Stuff a Cruiser” team back to the store on a future date.
On August 12, Target’s corporate headquarters released a statement on Twitter calling the incident a “misunderstanding.”
“We have a long history of supporting the New Britain community and we’re sorry for the misunderstanding. We’ve talked with police and they’re returning to our store this weekend for their back-to-school drive. In addition, Target’s donating school supplies to support the efforts,” the tweet read.
The drive was rescheduled for Saturday and Sunday between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The drive is requesting donations of No. 2 Pencils, ballpoint pens, pencil pouches, erasers, sharpeners, rulers, protractors, scissors, personal calendars, pocket folders, 3-ring binders, 3-hole punches, index cards, subject dividers, White-Out, highlighters, markers, glue sticks, graphing calculators, wide-ruled loose leaf paper, graph paper, drawing paper, watercolor paints, spiral notebooks, staplers, locker accessories, lunchboxes, and backpacks.
The Police Tribune received a statement from Target’s corporate headquarters on August 14.
It read: “Last Saturday, a group of police officers and volunteers were collecting donations outside our store for the drive, which in the past was always coordinated in advance with our store leadership team. When our team saw the group collecting donations, and wasn’t aware the drive was going to take place that day, we asked for more information. An officer asked our team if they should leave, and we said yes so we could work with them to coordinate the drive together at another time.”
It continued: “We spoke with the New Britain Police Department on Monday and Mayor Stewart’s office on Wednesday to clarify what happened, express our continued support for the school supply drive and arrange for them to come back to the store this weekend. Additionally, our manager did not, at any time during the conversation, express a lack of support for law enforcement. And as we have for many years, we contributed a gift card and school supplies for this great cause. We’re sorry that this situation has caused frustration in the community and took attention away from the supply drive.”
Sources: America Now