What started with an email from target to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office’s Shop with a Cop charity in October and a puzzled response that went unanswered has turned into a full-bore and continuing assault on the company by Sheriff Rick Staly, who has been lambasting Target for “talking out of both sides of their mouths” after abruptly severing a 13-year relationship with what had previously been known as Christmas with a Deputy.
It was a stunning turn-around and an unusual position for Target, a company that for years had been identified as one of the most pro-law enforcement companies in the nation. Target’s messaging in this case, however, or at least what there has been of it, has been imprecise and at times contradictory, with the company saying it was ending the program that enabled Shop with a Cop program at its store while still providing the Palm Coast Fire Department’s union—through its benevolent fund, a non-profit— a $5,000 grant as part of the same program.
To ensure that the 125 children in Shop with a Cop would still have their spree, the program hopped across town to Walmart, which had asked for and hosted a smaller version of the event last year, and was the sole provider this year.
After issuing a scalding–and scolding–two-page letter to Target Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell on Dec. 15, charging the company with “an attempt to deceive or influence the public” with “little more than corporate propaganda” about why Target was pulling back, Staly in the last 48 hours has appeared on two right-wing networks at their invitation–One America News, or OAN, and Newsmax, both of which fall well to the right of Fox, which has not extended an invitation–to counter what he sees as the company’s attempt to rewrite history. (Neither OAN nor Newsmax had a Target representative, and neither said whether they’d invited one.)
Target has attributed the broken relationship to “a miscommunication earlier this year resulted in the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office being told that Target was retiring our Heroes & Helpers program,” the program that had paired the Palm Coast store with the Christmas shopping spree that itself pairs local cops with children from less privileged families. The Sheriff’s Office’s charity raised thousands of dollars–nearly $16,000 from within the agency this year, nearly $10,000 from the community–and provided gift cards to the children, who would then buy presents for themselves and their families.
Target did not explain the “miscommunication” to the Sheriff’s Office, nor issue it the statements it has issued others, including a retired police sergeant in Virginia who had been involved in Shop with a Cop there. The sergeant wrote Staly about receiving the same statement, which also refers to an apology issued to the Sheriff’s Office, ostensibly by phone (there is no written apology). The sheriff found out about Target’s various responses through media.
Target officials attempted to meet with Staly after he wrote the company. A meeting was scheduled for Tuesday. Staly cancelled it.
“I think they’re trying to do damage control based on the official statement that they’re sending out to reporters and private citizens that are reaching them,” Staly said in an interview this morning. “I’m not going to let Target Corporation use me for damage control when they shot themselves in the foot.” Before meeting with Target officials in person, he said, he wants the company to respond to his letter. Otherwise, he says the company isn’t being sincere, and would use a meeting with him to make it seem as if the matter was addressed and resolved. “They’re going to try to throw a low-level employee under the bus and blame it on them, and that is just not fair, so I’ll be glad to talk to them if they want to take responsibility.”
Even if a meeting does take place, Staly said he’s not going back to Target. “It would be unfair to Walmart, number one, because they came through and rescued Shop with a Cop for these kids, and they deserve for us to stay with them because of that,” Staly said. Secondly, he said, it would he “hypocritical” of him to return the event to “a company that apparently doesn’t want to support law enforcement or is trying to be politically correct and distance themselves,” though he’d be willing to entertain Target support for other local programs affiliated with the Sheriff’s Office, such as the Police Athletic League.
The claim that Target doesn’t want to support law enforcement or is being political correct is an assumption. The company, from what even Staly has gathered, has continued to provide Shop with a Cop-like events in some stores, including in Florida. In communications with FlaglerLive, a Target spokesperson has said that “While our 2022 programming is not yet finalized, we remain committed to working with partners nationwide to make a lasting impact in the communities we serve. We will have more to share on our 2022 plans next year.” The statement appeared to leave the door open for programming such as Shop with a Cop locally. But the company continues to be cagey both about what caused the severing of ties or its redirection, and has declined a request to make someone available who could answer questions more directly than through statements.
The shopping spree at Target was in preparation earlier this fall, the date was picked out, the contributions were coming in, and the children were being selected, just as had been the case in the previous 13 years. On Oct. 6, Taylor Olander, the security chief at the local Target, emailed Lou Miceli of Shop with a Cop. (See the exchange here.) Olander thanked Miceli for the partnership in the Heroes and Helpers program then wrote that Target was “introducing a new give-back program” that, while expanding its reach, would partner directly with “local non-profit organizations across the country to provide families in need with essentials, gifts and more,” with all 1,900 stores participating. The email made clear: the Heroes & Helpers program was being retired.
Fifteen minutes later Miceli wrote back, “a little lost here,” telling Olander that Shop with a Cop is a non-profit, so “why couldn’t we have done the event?” There was no response. (Olander’s email, which appeared to be standard-issue corporate language that was emailed locally, referred any inquiries to Target’s Corporate Responsibility office.)
The event at Walmart took place the evening of Dec. 10. Staly wrote his two-page letter on Dec. 15, posting it on the agency’s Facebook page with a photo of a Grinch leaning back, arms crossed, against the Target sign in Town Center. The post has been among the page’s most popular, drawing–at last count this morning–4,700 comments and 32,000 shares across the country. The overwhelming majority of comments are critical of Target and supportive of the sheriff (“way to go Rick!), though some criticized the sheriff for “grandstanding” and ” participating in cancel culture.”
The matter caught the attention particularly of right-wing outlets that, like OAN and Newsmax, have framed the issue as part of their anti-“woke” narrative.
“It doesn’t surprise me because so many corporations these days are going woke and then they find out when they start losing money, it’s from woke to broke, and they turn around and change their mind.” OAN’s Dan Ball said to Staly as he opened the 11-minute segment on Dec. 21. OAN is not known for accuracy (and was suspended for a week by YouTube for spreading misinformation): at 10 percent, Target sales growth last month were double that of both Walmart and Amazon, its third quarter revenue was 12.7 percent higher than last year, its stock has risen 26 percent this year, compared with Walmart’s declining 2.6 percent.
While Ball kept pressing the “woke” point, using the word about 10 times, Staly in his interview appeared to steer away from it, focusing instead on what he saw as the company’s doubletalk and insincerity. In his interview this morning the sheriff said he suspected Target was pulling back from involvement with law enforcement for image reasons, noting that the company is headquartered in Minneapolis, home of George Floyd–the Black man whose murder by a white Minneapolis police officer in 2020 thrust Black Lives Matter back to the center of a national debate about race and police brutality, though this time most law enforcement agencies and leaders, including Staly, were supportive of the movement.
“They’re welcome to frame it however they want to frame it,” Staly said of his television interviews. “I think my reply to their questions and my letter speaks for itself, this isn’t about politics to me, it isn’t about right or left, it’s about right or wrong, it’s about corporate responsibility.”
There is a broader context to Target’s changing relationship with police–to the extent that it may be changing. “For decades, Target fostered partnerships with law enforcement unlike those of any other U.S. corporation,” Bloomberg reported in August. Slate had written a similar piece last year. “It became one of the most influential corporate donors to law enforcement agencies and police foundations, supplying money for cutting-edge technology and equipment.” It also paid for neighborhood surveillance systems. “In Minneapolis, Target worked with the City Attorney’s Office to have petty criminals banished from the downtown business district through what are called geographic restriction orders. Eight out of 10 people expelled were Black or American Indian, according to an analysis of city data.” The company basked in the publicity. When its stores were looted after the Floyd murder, it was not necessarily coincidence. A “Loot every target” social media posting has appeared since.
There has been no explicit statements by Target that it was retreating from its police commitments. Like its email to the sheriff’s office, there’s been more suggestion than precision. Last year Target faced claims that it was dropping Shop with a Cop program. A USA Today Fact Check said it wasn’t, but sourced the fact check exclusively on Target’s response–and Target’s then-continuing support for its Heroes & Helpers program. That’s the program Target dropped in October. However imprecise its email to the Sheriff’s Office, or what seemed like indifference when it did not respond to Miceli, the company had unquestionably ended what had made Shop with a Cop possible at its store locally, without providing an alternative to the Sheriff’s Office.
Staly said he has no issue with Target deciding not to support law enforcement, if that’s what it prefers–as long as its states its intentions clearly: “Believe in what you stand for and be willing to say it.” But in his letter he left no doubt about his intentions to attach a price to the company’s actions, or, more startlingly, to use his elected position to exact that price: “I support your right to end our partnership however, it comes with a price; while I doubt it impacts your bottom line you have lost a customer in both my wife and I. Further, I will educate my peers within the law enforcement community about your corporate action and decision. Finally, I will take the opportunity to discuss Target’s position in every public forum with which I have a platform.”
There is a final irony–for now. In his letter to the company Staly had noted the “more than 3,870 calls for service” his deputies have made at the Target store in Town Center since he became sheriff. As an underscore, his public relations office this afternoon issued a release about the arrest of four “career offenders” at Target over shoplifting and drug charges. The name of a business is rarely included in releases’ headlines. This time, Target was prominent.
Teresa Beshear Kvachuk says
So … I’m still shopping at Target. And I’m still not shopping at Walmart. Doesn’t the Sheriff have more important things on his to-do list?
Stop a cop says
Grandstanding is what sheriff Staley does best. That and hiring an ever increasing number of deputies.
But one could argue a law enforcement official slandering a corporation on national networks because he didn’t get his free candy sounds a bit like extortion.
I really appreciate the work or local law enforcement does. I never have felt unsafe in Palm Coast, but often I am disgusted by the elected officials like this one.
Same I voted for jones
The dude says
This entire affair has already wasted more minutes of my life than it’s deserving of.
Conservatives whining and crying is not news.
Sorry to all the tinfoil hat right wing morons creating these culture wars so that can continue to be angry about something, but Target isn’t going broke anytime soon. Good riddance
Staly is a whack – job !!!!!!!
Geesh, even Christmas becomes political. Sheriff Staly handled it well and good job for him in putting it together with Walmart at almost the last minute. In reading the article, the word “woke” came up a few times and I’ve heard that word before. Could someone please tell me the meaning of “woke”. I looked it up and it said something like if a person is “woke” he or she is aware of a situation (s). Why does the word sound like an insult?
The opposite of “Woke” is “Asleep”. Although the term is being hijacked now. If your woke your paying attention or stirred to action. Something that many in this world now fear.
That did it for me, target just lostmy business! Im done with them.
Your right wing radical Sheriff is to blame
Heathen Lady says
Aw, that’s too bad.
Dennis C Rathsam says
Wake Up Folks….TARGET has joined the darkside, WOKE AMERICA ,s pressure is on…defunde the police thats what they want. SHOP ELSEWHERE!!! Stand up for your values your parents taught UUUUUU.
You made some grammatical errors in your post.
Is it safe to assume that you don’t actually get news from vetted sources (?)
Parents did not teach you spelling and you put you tint hat back on.
The voice of reason says
This program seemed to run quite well under Larry Jones. I always wondered why he had the rug pulled out from under him by stay. Smells like republican politics as usual. Something Fidel deathsantis or grandstanding Grady Judd would do. Pathetic. I think Target resents being used as a political pawn used to promote stalys re election.
Lance Carroll says
That same thought crossed my mind…..hmmm.
Not surprised for Sheriff Staley to appear on Newsmax and OAN. Remember this a department that conducted tactical training for potential insurrectionists prior to the events of January 6.
The program has raised thousands of dollars for kids over the last decade.
The kids are the ones losing out, even charity is cancelled these days
Seldom shopped at Target and after this news I will never shop there again. Politics do not belong in a children’s shopping for Christmas organization that relies on donations. Glad that the Sheriff got the Shopping Job done and with Walmart. The tongue darted liberal comments on this are not necessary and are very ill mannered.
You to judge is ill because he wants to be in spot light and to blame target for what do you know what was emailed to stop going to target because someone said to spoken like a far right nut
Christopher Todd Lemke says
JOSEPH HEMPFLING says
To me it sounds like a kid’s “sand box” misunderstanding and name calling. Suggestion; shake hands
And let it go. There is enough cloudy stuff in the air this season already. P.S merry christmas and glad it didn’t affect the kids, the real reason for the program, no matter what you call it or where it comes from. Time to move on gentlemen.
Cancel culture from a public position of power does not set a good precedent and can be perceive as abuse of power. Any business have the right to contribute to the community anyway they choose we just have to be very appreciative that they volunteer to contribute. I would not boycott any local business simply because will endanger the very jobs held by local residents. Lets set good examples for our community without politicizing a well intended charity even.
So. The same man who is apparently aligned with the “Patriot Movement,” rolls out a geofence of License Plate Readers around the county, develops a “real-time crime center” (A.K.A. mini fusion center), hires even more deputies and then goes on OAN and Newsmax. But hey, if you’re not doing anything wrong there’s nothing to worry about. Right?
The Geode says
I was on the fence about him until you sent me to this website. He will definitely get MY vote…
Okay. Uncle Ruckus strikes again. You should be ashamed of yourself.
You know the get off my lawn crowd is gonna love this.
John Stove says
Jesus Christ Staly…..get a grip….talk about being one sided!
Why didnt YOU attend the face to face meeting they asked you to attend? Maybe then you could have had the answers you wanted instead of being a drama queen on the far right networks.
You see a Republican pattern here?…..Senator Manchin was asked to attend a meeting with the White House about the Build Back Better program but instead declined it and instead went on Fox “News” to claim he was “disrespected”….sniff-sniff…boo-hoo
Staly is asked to a attend a meeting with Targer about the Shop With A Cop program but instead declind it and went on to far right networks because he didnt want to give them a platform to frame their response…..sniff-sniff…boo-hoo
What an embarrassment
Staley needs to shut up snd do his policing job. Politics between Target and WalMart not included. Staley must feel the need to be more important than he really is. Your good at policing, stay in that arena.
More right wing BS. And to Sheriff Staley, what difference does it make how many calls Deputies made to Target. This is your job, to serve and protect. Do your job and stop the right wing rhetoric and BS.
Here it is – CHRISTMAS. A time people of all faiths – even most Christians celebrate the spirit of giving. Except here in Palm Coast where they celebrate the unspirited gift of taking.
Shame on you . . .
Jon f says
Staly needs to go. We the people casted out votes based on all the BS he talked during his election. You can be voted in and out. I for one can assure you that this man/snake in the grass will NOT get my vote next election. I will pit a wrap on my truck and drive it all over town advising for the citizens of this county NOT! To re-elect this snake in the grass sheriff we have.
You would be wasting your money!
Mondexian Mama says
OAN and Newsmax? To use the sheriff’s overworked phrase ‘another great example’ of a grandstanding politician. Had he chosen a more credible and less discredited news source to vent his spleen, his story would have been more believable. I’ll be doing a lot more shopping at target this year and will not be voting for a political hack.
Stick to more reliable media outlets to set a ‘great example’.
to : Mondexian Mama
You pretty much covered the same grounds I was going to go over.
Remember “A man is judged by the company he keeps” – soooo…
Mr Know It All says
Staley the Snowflake Sheriff
While what Target did was odd, they still supported the Firefighter’s shopping for kids. Wal-Mart will jump at any chance to sell their cheap goods from China. Too bad the Staley didn’t try to support small local businesses in some form.
Wow – and I guess everything Target sells is made in the USA. I’m sure you have an Apple watch made in China and a home filled tons of stuff from China.
The sad part of this whole ordeal is that members of the Palm Coast community are going into Palm Coast Target and harassing the workers who had nothing to do with corporate’s decision. They are
being yelled at and swore at. These workers were told to enter and leave the store with the buddy-system to be safe. They are ordinary people trying to earn an honest wage. Shame on those who are disrespecting fellow community members.
Thank you Palm Coast Target workers for the hard work you’ve been doing under these deplorable conditions and so sorry
corporate has put you in the crosshairs. I will continue to shop at Target to support these extraordinary workers and their families.
“This should not be political,” he says while on channels so slanted they cannot even legally be considered news.
Sounds like petty, crybaby cancel culture to me. Stop getting people all worked up in a frenzy. There are too many nutjobs around here.
Also, what a big eff you to Walmart. They stepped up to help, and all you do is cry because the prettier girl wouldn’t go to the dance with you. Meanwhile, the girl you brought is sitting in a corner by herself.
I was going to vote Staley again, but I cannot stomach this behavior.
Tom Watson says
Sheriff Staley is an egotistical ass who wants to be in the spotlight more than actually enforcing any laws here in Flagler County! He had it out for Target after his last competitor ran against him in the last race for Sheriff. This particular competitor organized the previous shop with a cop at Target, and so this was Staley’s way of punishing Target and doing his own thing, once again for publicity! He’s a real jerk and the most immature joke of a Sheriff that this state, and probably country, has ever seen! Can’t wait until he’s put out of office! What a joke of a Sheriff!!!
# NOT MY SHERIFF!!!
Sharing the number of times the FCSD assisted at Target makes it sound like they responded to Target as a favor and then Target did him no favor in return so the FCSD just might not respond to Target when needed. Then he publicly stated his own made-up reason as to why this occurred. This behavior is childish and beligerent– characteristics I expect of a 5-year old, not a professional office-holder. Ugh. Flagler County just gets worse.
Larry Jones started this charitable event decades ago. Staley stepped in and pushed him out when Jones ran against Staley. Larry served the citizens with honor for 30 years. Staley is just being Staley. A bloviating whacko who tries to emulate the Polk Co. Sheriff, Grady Judd who took his persona from Orange Co. Sheriff Kevin Berry. I’m all for “get tough on crime” and standing up to political correctness. An old, bald, puny man cannot sell the “tough guy” bit.
The sheriff is like a child throwing a tantrum Christmas morning for not getting the gifts he wanted . What a joke he has made this town, all while making us broke .
Concerned Citizen says
Thank you Sheriff Staley for creating an unnecessary hostile environment for the hourly employees at Target.
Your silly slander campaign has made it ugly for those just trying to do a job to work without being harassed. We have several friends who work at Target. People are cussing them out and being disrespectful. And at every occasion it’s your issue being brought up. And yes it’s gotten to the point as one commenter pointed out workers don’t leave alone.
To the people of Palm Coast and Flagler County.
The decision made by Target to part ways with FCSO was a Corporate one. It has ZERO to do with the 17 year old working the register. When you go in there and throw your tantrum you’ve done nothing but wreck that persons day. You have the right to protest sure. But direct it to the managers and corporate office in a civil way.
To Sheriff Staly
You have the right to voice your displeasure but your slander campaign has gone a bit far. You seem to have forgotten that one of the things about our country is the right of choice. You had the right to (sadly) cut ties with Larry Jones and Christmas With A Deputy. That program ran smoothly for years. All over politics I suppose.
Likewise Target has the right to cut ties with your program at any given time. But to refuse meetings to try and rectify the situation and then get on less than accurate news sites to slander a corporation is petty and irresponsible.
This Sheriff does nothing but continue to spend money and create issues when there weren’t any. Something to remember next election cycle. It’s OK to not keep voting the same people back in office. Just because it’s what you know.
I guess the glory hound will be running for governor in a few years!!!!!