Altoona Police Spreading Joy and Arresting Criminals With Santa

ALTOONA, Iowa  --  Santa has a brand new sleigh.

"I came across a blue one and bought it and put the Altoona Police patches on it."

For a full week, Altoona Police Department Community Relations Officer Joe Meola has chosen to protect and serve as Officer Kringle.

Meola said, "People are doing double takes just to see what the heck is going on. It's bringing a lot of enjoyment to everybody in town."

Santa cannot do it alone, so he has help from Senior Patrol Officer Melodee Tufts, better known as 'Elfette.'

She said, "It is just a lighthearted way for us to mix and mingle with the community and let them know we are people, too, and we want to have fun."

Officers Meola and Tufts understand how important their relationships with police were growing up, which is why they want the same for today's youth.

"I grew up here in this town and I grew up seeing the officers throughout my life and how much of an impact they had, and I want to be able to pass that torch down to the younger generation."

For that generation, the swap from red to blue was met with hard hitting questions.

"They say, 'why does Santa have a gun belt?' I say sometimes I have to check the naughty list, but I tell the kids none of them are on the naughty list," said Meola.

While the outfits may seem like a lot of fun and games, Officer Meola was called into action, in full costume, as Officer Kringle.

"Officer Kringle actually got into a foot chase with his full Santa hat and beard and everything and actually caught the shoplifter," said Sergeant Alyssa Wilson.

Criminals may not be feeling any Christmas joy from Officer Kringle and Elfette, but the city of Altoona clearly remains on the nice list.

Tufts said, "If everyone is safe, healthy, and happy, it makes our jobs easier and our community happier."

The officers also handed out gift cards to neighborhood restaurants so families could enjoy a Christmas meal this holiday season.