CHARLESTON — The Charleston Police Department has recruited a part time officer to help with community outreach during the Christmas season.
This officer, named "Doughnut," stands about 10 inches tall, wears red head to toe, and is quiet but watchful. He has already gained attention in Charleston and beyond for a video that shows him foiling a "theft" by a culprit who looks suspiciously like The Grinch.
"We have more training in store for him. We have more adventures to document," said Detective Joel Shute of his new colleague, who happens to be an Elf on the Shelf.
Officers have been posting about the elf on the "Charleston Illinois Police Department" Facebook page since he first showed up for duty at the police station on Monday.
Since then, officers have shared a photo of "Doughnut" taking part in a morning briefing at the station and a video of him partnering with police canine Vito to catch The Grinch in the act of Christmas present thievery.
Elf on the Shelf got his start as the focus of a 2005 same-titled children's picture book, written by Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell, and illustrated by Coë Steinwart. It tells the story of how little scout elves help Santa know if children have been naughty or nice.
Shute said he and other officers have young children. He said they, like other local families, have made Elf on the Shelf a Christmas tradition in their households. Shute said this shared, lighthearted tradition provides a good opportunity for community outreach.
"I think something like that can show we are approachable, empathetic and relatable," Shute said of the police officers. "People can relate to Elf on the Shelf, so they can relate to us."
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Shute noted that officers sought suggestions from the community for names for the department's Elf on the Shelf. "Doughnut" won out over names such as "Pancakes," "Francis," "Choo Choo," "Leo," and "Blue."
"'Doughnut' is classic. It relates to the police. We can embrace it," Shute said.
Parents who take part in the Elf on the Shelf tradition often document the many locations where the little scout elves show up each night in their homes to keep watch on their children's behavior.
Like these families Shute said all of the officers and support staff members at the Charleston Police Department have been contributing ideas for photos and videos featuring "Doughnut."
"Once something like that got going, it snowballed pretty quickly," Shute said.
For the recent video, Shute said they borrowed a Grinch outfit from Grand Ball Costumes in Charleston and filmed at one of Vito's favorite training sites at the Coles County Fairgrounds. "Doughnut" got to ride on the police dog's back to catch The Grinch.
The video has generated more than 22,000 views, including more than 700 shares, since being posted on Facebook on Thursday. The officers also showcase "Doughnut" via @charlestonpolice on Instagram.
"It was such a good feeling to watch the video. I want it to go viral for them," said Grand Ball Costumes owner Jayne Ball-Saret. "I think they did a beautiful job. It looks very professional."