Police

Police Keep Pulling People Over In 'Cute' Christmas-Themed Publicity Stunts

Citizens forced to comply with unconstitutional stops get gift cards.

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You have the right to be grateful for this gift card.
Suffolk County Police

It's that most wonderful time of the year, when police illegally stop drivers so they can hand them gift cards, all recorded on camera for public relations purposes.

The recurring gimmick is meant to show police officers have "heart," and just about all the videos of such stunts show drivers displaying the same hidden camera game show-type reaction, where their tense and concerned face drops in relief and laughter as they realize they've been lovably duped by an armed agent of the state.

Some recent examples include an officer in a Santa outfit handing out candy canes to motorists and their kids in Suffolk County (N.Y.):

In Youngsville (La.), officers have been pulling over drivers and giving them gifts for obeying the rules of the road, which Officer Pedro Alexander says makes him feel good "to know that you're not considered the bad guy around the holidays."

In Sequoyah County (Okla.), one officer was seen on video telling a motorist he was being pulled over for a broken windshield. When the officer came back with gifts, the motorist — who had been video streaming his stop on Facebook — actually did seem appropriately annoyed, asking "Why you got to scare me like that?" Happy pranksters of the law are also pulling these stunts in Michigan, Massachusetts, and Tennessee.

(Update: Via the Reason Foundation's Lauren Krisai, more undercover Santas are scaring/rewarding law-abiding citizens in Louisiana and Pennsylvania.)

But no one likes being pulled over, it can often be a terrifying experience just seeing those flashing lights in your review mirror. Leaving people alone for obeying the law is the appropriate default posture for law enforcement. If police are seeking good publicity and can't think of anything better to do than to hand out gift cards donated by local businesses, perhaps they should be a little more creative than play-acting some scary scenario that's really just a ruse (frequently done in coordination with obsequious local media outfits) to benefit the police department's image.

As Reason's Jacob Sullum wrote, "these supposedly heartwarming interactions are still abuses of power." Sullum added:

If police would not have stopped drivers for these minor violations unless they had gifts to hand out, they are deliberately inconveniencing people and causing them needless anxiety for the sake of a publicity stunt. The distribution of gifts is beneficent on the face of it, but it is a demeaning kind of beneficence given the inherently unequal relationship between a citizen and an armed agent of the state with the power to forcibly detain him.

Some might say this is classic humorless libertarianism playing Grinch to some harmless holiday fun. It doesn't change the fact that the stops are a violation of the Fourth Amendment or that people are understandably jittery when being detained by police.

If police want to improve their image, pulling stunts that initially highlight the fear and dread that often comes with running afoul of a police officer isn't the best long game.

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69 responses to “Police Keep Pulling People Over In 'Cute' Christmas-Themed Publicity Stunts

  1. Note to cops: the biggest gift you cold give me this holiday season is letting me go about my business without interference from the State.

  2. Presumably one can let out a giant cloud of weed smoke once the cop approaches without repercussion, seeing that there was no probable cause for the stop.

    1. Please try this and report back.

    2. Happened to a friend of mine in the 80’s. The Houston police were giving movie tickets to good drivers and when they pulled him over, it was obvious what he had been doing. Cops let him go- didn’t even mention it.

  3. The recurring gimmick is meant to show police officers have “heart,”

    So, the cops are paying for the gift cards, not the taxpayers?

    1. From one of the links:

      “The drivers get a gift card donated by a local business – a positive gesture just in time for the holidays.

      Officer Alexander said, “It’s a good feeling to know that you’re not considered the bad guy around the holidays.”

      Roger added, “I just appreciate what these guys are doing. They put their lives on the line every day, and I think it’s good that they’re doing something right and giving back to the community and are rewarding things that are done right.”

      So the cops are being PAID to hand out gifts donated by someone else and then they reap the benefit for not looking like the bad guys.

      And OBTW, garbage men are almost 3 times as likely to die doing their job than a cop, but “Roger” pats himself on the back for donating a gift card for those who “put their lives on the line every day.”

      1. “Officer Alexander said, “It’s a good feeling to know that you’re not considered the bad guy around the holidays.””

        It’s nice you feel that way even though it’s not true. Is this whole program for Police Feelz?

    2. The article infers that the gift cards are donated by local businesses. So the taxpayers are not paying for them, just the consumers.

      1. Helps to know which retailers are part of the problem.

  4. Almost everyday we read about police stops that go wrong, innocent people being shot and killed by cops, or cops getting injured by freaked out suspects. Why they would want to create more unnecessary situations for things to go wrong befuddles me.

    1. This just illustrates that the cops know damn well that their job is not particularly dangerous.

    2. They say traffic stops are one of the more dangerous things they do because it could be anyone in the car, ready to kill them. Yet they sure do like to pull people over for minor infractions

  5. I don’t even drive, but for some reason I thought about this practice the other day and got hot for like 30 minutes. I was fuming, imagining being pulled over and then told it’s all a little joke, and here’s an ice cream or a gift card or a turkey or whatever.

    The question that gnaws at me, and which I imagine I’d be man enough to ask the Santacop thinking he’s doing me a favor: if they had no reasonable suspicion to pull me over, would it have been legal for me to not pull over? Or to drive off once they get out of the car? Can I flip him off and drive away the second I realize he’s pranking me?

    1. You can do all of those things, as the bullets commence to fly.

    2. Rikers Island is nice this time of year…

    3. I seriously wonder what’s going to happen the day somebody panics and runs. What are the chances the cops won’t go into “if he runs he must be guilty of something” mode and give chase, endangering other drivers and possibly ending up with the poor citizen beaten or killed, or the cop dead at the end? All with no probable cause, and with the cops probably spared punishment as usual.

      1. I can’t imagine any cop deciding not to give chase. The driver’s obviously guilty of something!

      2. It’ll make an awesome video – half-a dozen cop-santa’s beating the shit out of some poor schlob at the end of a chase.

        1. If the shlub is a woman, they’ll be beating her and saying “Ho, Ho, Ho…..’ho”

  6. I just got stopped while walking home from dropping off my car at the shop for this. The guy gave me ticket for a free ham. I did not enjoy the experience. Mostly thinking, “oh fuck, did I do something wrong? I used the crosswalk. I took out my earbuds, I made sure I had the walk.” I mean, the crazies have come to central FL, so I’m pretty worried about my own safety, not the laws.

    1. So anyways, I’m gonna go get me a 10lb ham and a cop hat and post the most subversive thank you picture I can dream up to the local PD FB page.

      1. They really are asking for it giving out pork products, aren’t they?

        Please share the picture here if you can.

        1. Missed it by THAT much, chief.

            1. That’s good work, Chestbridge. You’ll make Colonel for this.

      2. Ham — like from a pig? They’re just asking for snark, aren’t they.

      3. And reason.com, I hope

  7. They are running out of real crimes to chase after. So what else are they supposed to do? But it’s a bit passive-aggressive. (Sorry don’t blame me for the children’s books and hollywood movies saying we need cops to catch the bad guys.)

    1. I assume they’re doing this crap while on the clock. Yet if you are a victim of a crime (house burglarized, etc) they’ll go on and on with a straight face about how resources are limited, they don’t have time to investigate crimes, etc. Fuck em.

      1. Well, they are on the clock when they come from other states to attend a cop’s funeral, why wouldn’t they be on the clock for this.

  8. “I believe you’d get your ass kicked for doing something like that.”

    – An America I wish actually existed.

    1. + 1 red Swingline stapler.

      1. I believe the correct upvote is +2 chicks at the same time

        1. +1 cousin who don’t do shit.

    2. Watch your cornhole, bud.

  9. But no one likes being pulled over

    And cops refuse to understand this, it seems. Even if you have nothing to hide like contraband or warrants or anything, getting pulled over sucks. It’s a waste of time and most people know that they can fuck you over if they really want to, no matter what you were doing. And most people routinely drive over the speed limit, so there is usually some small legitimate worry there too. Yet they still seem to believe that people shouldn’t mind it at all.

    And what would they do if you were smoking a dube or failed to stop or something? I’m going to guess that the tone would change quickly. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was just a secret excuse to have more “contact” with potential bad guys (i.e. everyone who isn’t a cop or connected).

    1. Well of course it is. If they find something, they’ll make up reasonable suspicion after the fact.

    2. That’s my question… what if you failed to stop or decided to run after the cop got out of his car? Is he authorized to pursue? Is the cop truly going to initiate a high speed pursuit for a fake traffic stop? Is he going to press charges?

  10. Next up, police break into your house, your family screams in terror over a home invasion. Police reveal that it’s just a prank and you got punked. Everyone sits down for tea and crumpets and laughs about their awesome sense of humor.

    1. I think it might have been in the UK, but that is kind of a thing. Though more about encouraging people to lock their doors. Still sounds like trespassing to me.

      1. Wasn’t there a story similar to this in the US? New York? Anyway, pigs, or maybe it was meter maids, were opening unlocked cars and putting notes on the dash to the effect of “lock your car, what if we had been thieves instead of the good guys?” (HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA)

        All kinds of illegal, but I’ll give you 5 guesses how much punishment was doled out as a result.

    2. Too bad about Scruffy getting shot, though.

    3. “Flash Bang Prank” — the new album by “Boyz N Blu”

  11. OT: Most self-unaware post I’ve seen today. Massive Hillary supporter posting a link to to Wikipedia’s “Dunning-Krueger Effect” article with the tag: “This makes me think of Trump and his supporters.”

    1. I think I’ve got that beat. I was going to post a link earlier but couldn’t. There is an actual Salon twitter post showing the aftermath of an explosion (don’t know where — perhaps Aleppo) and the writer wrote something like, “President Trump, do you even know where your bombs are landing?”

      1. That has to be a deliberate joke, right?

    2. Isn’t that just like a tard to link to something they don’t grasp the concept of.

      1. I think you mean it’s like a tard to link to a concept of which they do not have the grasp.

        #doesn’t understand pronouns

        1. No, I meant it’s like a tard to link to a concept of which they have no grasp.

          1. Well sure if want to actually be correct instead of my lame attempt at humor.

            #nobodygetsme

  12. Here is some of your tax money back, citizen. Be grateful.

  13. This makes me wonder if cops don’t understand what it’s like to be pulled over. I know it seems incomprehensible that they don’t realize how stressful it can be since everything they do is designed to make subjects cower in fear during every police interaction, but shit like this makes it seem like they have no idea. Or, this is all funny to them. “Did you see the look on his face?”

    1. Oh, it’s absolutely funny to them. You know they’re joking about that stuff when they get back to the station.

      1. It’s not stressful for them to get pulled over, what with the literal get of jail free card called a badge.

        We had an incident a few years ago in Seabrook NH, which is near the Mass border. A Mass cop got pulled over for IIRC drunk driving. News reports said he was outraged when he got arrested by the NH cops. I guess the interstate rivalry overcome the thin blue line.

        1. Memory is so fallible. It was a Seabrook cop hitting a parked car in Salsibury Mass.

          http://www.unionleader.com/art…../708039978

          When local officers informed Seabrook Sgt. Mark Preston that he was under arrest Sunday night, he exploded, according to a police report by Salisbury patrolman Timothy Hunter filed in Newburyport District Court.

          ‘What about the brotherhood? This is [expletive deleted]! Why aren’t you taking me home,’ Preston said, according to the report. ‘If this happened in Seabrook, we would take care of you guys! This is ridiculous. You guys are a [expletive deleted] joke! I am a 30-year sergeant and you are going to do this to me? Really! My life and my career are over! I hope you guys are [expletive deleted] happy!’

        2. Memory is so fallible. It was a Seabrook cop hitting a parked car in Salsibury Mass.

          http://www.unionleader.com/art…../708039978

          When local officers informed Seabrook Sgt. Mark Preston that he was under arrest Sunday night, he exploded, according to a police report by Salisbury patrolman Timothy Hunter filed in Newburyport District Court.

          ‘What about the brotherhood? This is [expletive deleted]! Why aren’t you taking me home,’ Preston said, according to the report. ‘If this happened in Seabrook, we would take care of you guys! This is ridiculous. You guys are a [expletive deleted] joke! I am a 30-year sergeant and you are going to do this to me? Really! My life and my career are over! I hope you guys are [expletive deleted] happy!’

          1. Fallible enough you forgot you posted it?

            Or are you going to blame the squirrels?

            1. I remembered to put pants on today, so I got that goin’ for me.

    2. They get to fuck with people, get those people to thank them for it, and maybe every now and then they get an arrest for their quota. Win-win-win.

    3. Of course they don’t. When a cop gets pulled over by another cop the pullee takes out his badge and the whole thing ends in 20 seconds.

  14. Yeah, it’s all fun and games until one of these jackboots panics over nothing and shoots an innocent unarmed civilian.

  15. Just wait until a fucking pig or an innocent motorist is killed during one of these farcical stunts. Then we’ll see how “cute” it is.

    One of the above events would make me sad, one would not.

  16. So you can get pulled over for violating traffic laws and for complying with them.

  17. The cops who are pulling people over for this are assholes.

    The officer who came up with this idea is an asshole.

    The police chief who approved this is an asshole.

    But I’m the one everyone will be upset with when I point out what bullshit this ‘program’ is.

    1. Turn the volume down if you are at work.

  18. This is just so cute.

    I can’t wait for the Christmas night no-knock raids to deliver presents to all the good little children and flash-bang all the naughty ones (or the other way around, whatever).

    While we’re at it we should update Twas the night before Christmas in honor of our heroes in blue. Can’t have Santa pulling up on a sleigh when he has a shiny new MRAP to barge through your front door with. And we all know it’s not the mice that aren’t stirring but the dogs that have been shot for giggles.

  19. Who else wants to see Santa Cop get sued?

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