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Police officer with bowl of chips.

Chips and salsa cops

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No one expected the RCMP to RSVP. After an underage frosh event caught the eye of the Lumsden, Sask. detachment, the cops announced they'd be attending. Like any good party guest, they promised to bring gifts — chips, salsa and charges for anyone found drinking underage.

"The announcement went up on the F Division Facebook page, and comment after comment started coming in. Within a day it was the most popular post on the F Division Facebook page ever, and we felt we should run with it," says Sgt. John Armstrong, Lumsden detachment commander. "We got calls from all over — newspapers, the Huffington Post — it went as far as New Zealand!"

The viral success of the story helped convince Armstrong to follow through on the RCMP's promise. He loaded up on snack-size bags of Doritos and mini salsa packets, then enlisted the help of his wife and kids to staple together party packs to hand out. Included with the chips were printed notes reminding partygoers to stay safe.

"When we first showed up, the guests were a little apprehensive. But after we spoke to a few people and started handing the chips out, they started taking pictures with us, saying that the cops came through with their promise," says Armstrong.

Together with Cst. Tamara Lapointe, he toured the party, took selfies with guests and checked vehicles to make sure the drivers were sober. They didn't find any misconduct in the form of open liquor or underage drinking and left the party after handing out all the chips.

The reception from parents, partygoers and the media has been entirely positive, says Armstrong. Lumsden RCMP received hundreds of comments on their Facebook post and emails from parents praising their outreach. One parent even said that her son was now considering applying to join the RCMP after attending the party.

"It helped bridge the gap between us and the youth in the community, big-time," says Armstrong. "For something so small to get so big was pretty incredible."

Reprinted with permission from the Pony Express (No. 5, 2015).

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