A white, unmarked Capitol Police SUV cruised down C Street Northeast Friday morning with a red pom-pom nose affixed to its grill and brown cardboard antlers taped to its black-tinted windows.
Sixty Savoy Elementary School students waiting on the sidewalk outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building shrieked as they glimpsed the red sleigh it pulled.
“Santa,” screamed one little girl in a pink puffy coat and purple earmuffs, waving to the rosy-cheeked, red-suited retired Capitol Police officer shaking silver bells atop a flat-bed Capitol Police trailer.
Garland Thompson, who served 34 years with the department, welcomed the grade schoolers to the Capitol Police’s annual holiday party for students from the Anacostia-based school with a chorus of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
“Do you know whose birthday we celebrate on Christmas?” asked Thompson, who has been dressing up as what he calls a “Christian Santa” for 45 years. The response was mixed.
His next question, “What do you want for Christmas?” drew a much more enthusiastic chorus of answers from the kindergarten through third grade students, 99 percent of whom are eligible for free lunches, according to a school official.
Friday’s celebration marks the 14th year that the Capitol Police have hosted students for a holiday party. Sworn and civilian officers dressed as elves, complete with pointy, bell-tipped shoes, helped the children color cards for patients at the National Children’s Hospital, made ornaments and fed them a pizza lunch.
“It’s an opportunity for us to engage in community policing, build some trust and give back to the D.C. community,” said Chief Kim Dine, who appeared at the party in uniform, with no sign of festive costume.
At one table, officers painted snowflakes and sprinkled glitter on the students’ faces. At another, they set up a spread of Skittles, M&Ms and plastic bulbs to make candy ornaments. Each student also visits Santa and Mrs. Claus — this year played by a House-side officer — for a gift bag stuffed with clothing, toys and books donated by the Capitol Police.
Fatima Lambert, a Savoy Elementary social worker, said the party has become a “bright spot” that students look forward to every year, and for some of the less fortunate kids, it’s one of the best parts of the holiday.
“They are in love with the K-9 unit and a lot of them do look up to the Capitol Police officers,” she said.