Gateway: News

Gig Harbor police’s Chief for a Day wins hearts all over community

Gig Harbor Police Chief for a Day Violet Spataro waves to the crowd during the Yo’ Ho’ Harbor Grande Parade in Gig Harbor on Saturday.
Gig Harbor Police Chief for a Day Violet Spataro waves to the crowd during the Yo’ Ho’ Harbor Grande Parade in Gig Harbor on Saturday.

There’s a new police chief at the Gig Harbor Police Department, and though her position is an honorary one, she’s quickly winning hearts within the department and the community.

Violet Brielle Spataro, 5, has been chosen as the Gig Harbor Police Department’s Chief for a Day and was introduced in her new role during the Maritime Gig Festival on Saturday.

The Chief for a Day program is a statewide program where police departments adopt a child from the community who has overcome a significant challenge, often a health issue, as an honorary “chief” for special events and activities, Police Chief Kelly Busey said.

“It’s another way we can connect to the community,” Busey said. “It’s good for us and good for her.”

Violet was diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma at 7 months old and battled the cancer at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

In the years since, Violet has appeared twice on the “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” helped co-host several events with the Make-a-Wish Foundation and started her own foundation in 2012, the Violet Brielle Live Love Foundation, which provides “Blessing Bundles” to support other children fighting cancer.

Gig Harbor officer Chet Dennis has worked to get Violet settled into the department, including getting a uniform fitted for her from the department’s uniform company. Other equipment for Violet includes a police bicycle sized for her in order to accompany bike patrols — complete with lights and shiny handlebar streamers — and a golf cart fitted with lights and police decals, used by Violet and Busey during the Maritime Parade.

“It’s pretty cool to open up to people, and people have stepped up to be part of this,” Dennis said. “It’s a celebration of her life and life in general.”

Violet’s mom, Shenay Spataro, said the family was first contacted by the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, which organizes the program, through Facebook over a month ago.

While Spataro was overwhelmed by Violet’s welcome to the department, Violet herself — along with a figurine of fellow police officer Judy Hopps from the 2016 Disney movie “Zootopia” — greets her new office, uniform, equipment and fellow officers with delight.

“Stopping crime and catching bad guys,” she said, naming the most important part of a police officer’s job.

Violet will be sworn in at 5:30 p.m. Monday (June 13) during the Gig Harbor City Council meeting. She will also be in attendance at several community events throughout the year, including Gig Harbor’s National Night Out on Aug. 4.

Andrea Haffly: 253-358-4155, @gateway_andrea