Police Abuse

Michigan Cops Plan to Pull Teenagers Over for Obeying the Law

A Macomb County program aimed at "rewarding" good drivers casually violates their constitutional rights.

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Macomb County Sheriff's Office

"I suppose you're wondering why I pulled you over," says the cop after sauntering over to the driver's side window of your car. Well, yes, you are wondering. Your heart is pounding, your palms are sweating, and your mind is racing, trying to figure out what you did to justify this forcible stop by an armed agent of the state. "It's because you're such a good driver," he says, "and we wanted to reward you with a $5 gift card. Do you prefer Taco Bell, Subway, or McDonald's?"

Pick the reaction that best describes how you would feel in this situation:

1. Relieved that your brush with the law has ended in such a benign manner, you laugh heartily and thank the officer, thinking what a swell fellow he is and how lucky you are to live in a jurisdiction where traffic cops believe in positive reinforcement.

2. Furious that the officer has abused his powers by pulling you over without reasonable suspicion that you have committed a traffic offense, you struggle to remain civil as he hands you the gift card of your choice. As he drives off, you shake your head in disbelief at this casual violation of your constitutional rights.

3. Furious that the officer has abused his powers by pulling you over without reasonable suspicion that you have committed a traffic offense, you take down his name and badge number, promising to take the matter up with his superiors. You firmly explain to him why what he has done is unacceptable in a free society.

Did I mention that you are 17? The Macomb County, Michigan, sheriff's office, which recently launched a gift-card reward program for teenagers caught complying with the law, seems to assume the average adolescent driver will react with gratitude to being detained for no good reason. "The sheriff's office is pleased to partner with State Farm in this initiative," says Sheriff Anthony Wickersham. "Programs like this help to develop positive relationships between our deputies and the young adult community. We look forward to the positive interaction with our new drivers."

WDIV, the NBC station in Detroit, reports that "police are looking for drivers wearing seat belts, coming to a complete stop, using turn signals and following speed limits." So teenagers who don't want to be pulled over should be careful to flout those rules. On second thought, that might not work. It looks like their only safe option is to stay off the road.  

[Thanks to Kim Pound for the tip.]