Police

Police Are Still Stopping Motorists to Spread Compulsory Holiday Cheer

From Bible verses to "Christmas citations," cops continue to use misuse their authority when they act as "kindness squads."

|

You have the right to accept my cheer.
Petrdlouhy/Dreamstime.com

Jackson (Miss.) Police Officer Brandon Caston tried to bring some holiday cheer by flagging down motorists and handing them autographed Christmas cards last week.

One delighted citizen recorded her encounter with Officer Caston and posted the video to Facebook. Thinking the officer was stopping drivers at some form of checkpoint, she instead found out Caston was merely handing out Christmas cards adorned with a Bible verse. The Clarion-Ledger quotes Cassandra Welchlin as writing, "Now this is protecting and serving!" after receiving her Christmas greeting.

By all accounts, Caston is a hard-working, dedicated police officer who cares about his community. He was even commended by the department for thwarting two carjackers while off-duty earlier this year. And it appears he didn't use his police cruiser to stage a fake traffic stop to deliver his Christmas greetings, nor did he bring along a camera to help self-promote his holiday cheer for the good of his and his department's image.

But he was in uniform and he was standing in the middle of the street, which makes his attempt at sharing Christmas blessings and biblical verses borderline compulsory.

Reason has covered a series of happy police pranks that were far more egregious than Caston's—who by all accounts wasn't trying to briefly terrify anyone before showing them how great cops are by giving them a gift card to a chain restaurant—but since we last reported on the "kindness squads," even more instances of police pulling people over to give them "Christmas citations" for obeying the law continue to pop up all over the country.

Lest you think we here at Reason are joyless constitutional curmudgeons, other media outlets to both our left and our right concur that these well-meaning attempts at strengthening police and community relations might seem cute on video, but they're both unconstitutional and cruel.

As National Review's Kevin D. Williamson puts it, "Some of these videos are hilarious. But do you know why they are hilarious? Because that unsuspecting citizen who is minding his own business and following the law is terrified."

As far as Officer Caston's Christmas greeting cards, it doesn't appear that he was trying to fool anyone using the force of his uniform. But perhaps next time he wants to spread Christian well-wishes while dressed as an agent of the state, he could do it on the sidewalk where his presence won't be perceived as a compulsory traffic stop.

NEXT: Interesting Supreme Court petition: State regulators retaliated against financial adviser for anti-Obama speech (and for ad offering $100 'towards the purchase of a firearm' as bonus)

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “Any unwillingness to reciprocate this Christmas cheer can and will be used against you.”

    1. Festivus grievances to all.

    2. “Thank you for not Jewing.”

    1. How did you know that? That information is above your clearance level, citizen.

      1. You just confirmed it! Ha ha!!!!

      2. The Computer is our friend.

  2. “Aiyana Jones? Never heard of her. Here’s a candy cane!!!”

    1. “Be happy it’s not the caning your candy-ass deserves.”

  3. she instead found out Caston was merely handing out Christmas cards adorned with a Bible verse

    I think we have a whole ‘nuther Constitutional violation here . . . .

    1. It’s Constitutional violations all the way down.

        1. Or don’t, when it comes to establishment.

          1. They’re a lot like lives in that respect.

          2. i dont think the establishment clause necessarily bars police officers from exercising their religious rights. if they start proselytizing, obviously that’s different; but i think some people would describe anything as minor as wishing people a merry-christmas (*not in the context of pulling people over, but just as a remark to passer-by) as a perceived violation.

            is a christian officer who wears a cross any different than a sikh who wears a turban on duty?

            Insisting that all employees of the state strip themselves of any association with religion seems more like French ‘laicite’ than the US 1st amendment. Which is certainly where some people want to take things.

            related = “Cops wearing hijabs*”

            The police departments of New York City and Washington, D.C. both have employed officers who wear hijabs…. In addition…police departments of Baltimore, Memphis, San Francisco, Atlanta and Charlotte said their officers would not be prohibited from wearing a hijab under current policy.

            “We’re in the business of defending peoples’ freedom and liberty,” said Lt. David Robinson, a spokesperson for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg PD. “We would not infringe on officers’ beliefs.”

            Meanwhile, officers in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston, Las Vegas, San Antonio and Columbus, Ohio are not allowed to wear hijabs on duty

            i smell inevitable SC case

            1. The Court is weak on Free Exercise law. That’s why we have the RFRA, sorta. But a statute shouldn’t be necessary. Of course, there’s always going to be a tension between the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses when government actors are involved.

            2. i dont think the establishment clause necessarily bars police officers from exercising their religious rights. if they start proselytizing, obviously that’s different

              [Looks at cop, in cop uniform, standing in street acting as a cop, explicitly proselytizing.]

              Um….

      1. Well, it’s Christmas, you Scrooges. why should they be stingy with the Constitutional violations?

  4. All they want for Christmas is to visually sweep the interior of your vehicle without cause.

    1. ^This. Everybody who thinks that a cop stopping you to wish you a Merry Christmas would ignore an open container or a smoldering butt that might possibly be a joint since he had no cause for the stop raise your hands.

      1. Driving without a wreath on your grill is probable cause.

  5. Christmas cards adorned with a Bible verse

    The misuse of authority was tolerable until he brought jesus into it?

    these well-meaning attempts at strengthening police and community relations might seem cute on video, but they’re both unconstitutional and cruel.

    Pick one. Either intention matters or it doesn’t.

    Christian well-wishes

    Again – would the issue be any different if he were dispensing with ‘Secular’ enforcement of Well-wishes?

    I have a buddy who gets upset when i say, “bless you” after he sneezes, and retorts with a snippy “no thank you”.

    He knows damn well i’m as atheist as he is, and he knows damn well i do it reflexively, but he still acts as though any reference to supernatural forces is an unconstitutional imposition on him.

    Its not a good look.

    1. I have a buddy who gets upset when i say, “bless you” after he sneezes, and retorts with a snippy “no thank you”.

      Christ, what an asshole!

    2. these well-meaning attempts at strengthening police and community relations might seem cute on video, but they’re both unconstitutional and cruel.

      Pick one. Either intention matters or it doesn’t.

      It is possible to be unintentionally cruel, GILMORE.

      1. “”It is possible to be unintentionally cruel””

        yeah, i know. i think maybe i still have robby’s insistence on the “accidental” offensiveness of the Oregon-Blackface-teacher on my mind… where intention was repeatedly cited as justification to excuse her speech.

        (*which in my mind needed no such qualification)

        similarly – if the cop’s being a dickhead by pulling people over sans any cause, why bother giving him the benefit of good-intentions? just call him a cruel douchebag and don’t try and split hairs, as though his goodwill provides some intangible mitigating-factor.

        1. I’ve been dealing with Oracle all day, so the earlier debate slipped from my mind.

          Given the number of reflective reactions, I’ve been making a conscious effort to give people the benefit of the doubt and not assume.

          Of the major “inappropriately qualified statement” debates of late, I regard the ‘white genocide professor’ one the most eggregious because it outright claims a different level of rights regarding speech reserved for academia over the general public. The “Meant well but was doing harm” cop not quite as bad a qualification from Robby. The blackface professor was unclear if the qualifying statement was with regards to employment or speech rights.

    3. Nothing spells “well-meaning” like issuing a driving citation, or worse, after an unconstitutional traffic stop.

    4. I have a buddy who gets upset when i say, “bless you” after he sneezes, and retorts with a snippy “no thank you”.

      Try “fuck you, keep your germs to yourself” and see what he says.

      1. “Science benefit you!”

        1. *sets down coffee mug and begins thunderous applause*

    5. It sounds like you haven’t given into the snippiness and you continue to say it. Good. Though I’d be tempted to annoy him even more..inserting a different deity each time “Buddha bless you” …reciting a Catholic prayer…”may the Lord bless you and keep you..”

      1. Though I’d be tempted to annoy him even more..inserting a different deity each time “Buddha bless you”

        dude, now whenever he sneezes I raise one hand like the pope and start offering a benediction in latin, make the sign of the cross, etc. Its our own little private joke.

  6. There’s this thing called “under color of authority”. When a cop in uniform pulls you over, he is acting under color of authority. If he pulls you over without any legal cause, he is abusing his authority and violating your civil rights, “intentions” and cute videos be damned.

    This cop committed civil rights violations that may amount to crimes.

  7. Scraping the bottom of the outrage barrel here.

    1. These masturbation euphemisms are getting pretty abstract.

      1. LOL haha – I know right??? L00K at YOOOUUUUU!!!

  8. “Lest you think we here at Reason are joyless constitutional curmudgeons,”

    Wait, you’re NOT joyless constitutional curmudgeons?

    I’ve been tricked!

    1. Well, they realized they were appropriating my culture and had to stop.

      1. Fortunately, you don’t really like culture.

        1. LOL haha – Look at you!!!

    2. A few Cosmos and the Constitution goes out the window… along with lunch.

  9. It’s terrorism! Worse than ISIS!!!

  10. Speaking of Holiday cheer…

    Anyone get any good prezzies from Santa this year?

    1. I got a shiny new UN 2334 – more fun than a laser pointer cat-hat!

    2. One that sort of kind of fits in with the topic here, although it doesn’t involve cops.

      I was walking along the sidewalk on Christmas Eve, when a car pulled into the parking lot beside me, and the driver yelled at me to stop. Then a kid jumped out and handed me a Christmas card in an envelope. Then he got back in and they drove off.

      My first assumption was that they were one of those groups that hand out Christmas cards to attract people to their church. But while the card did have a couple of Bible verses, it didn’t mention any church by name.

      What the card did have was three signatures– presumably kids, judging by the penmanship– and a twenty dollar bill.

      That’s how you spread Christmas cheer.

  11. Federal Court Rules Police Can Shoot A Dog If It Moves Or Barks When Officers Enter A Home

    I don’t know how to post links, but this just popped up in on my local news site. I guess a police dog murderer won a case in federal court affirming their right to shoot dogs indiscrimately.

    1. Yeah, that was posted here. Basically, the cop chased a dog into the basement, cornered it, and when it barked at him, he killed it.

      1. Ok. I missed the a.m. links. I was actually having to do work at work thus morning. awful

  12. “The Clarion-Ledger quotes Cassandra Welchlin as writing, “Now this is protecting and serving!” after receiving her Christmas greeting.”

    This here, folks, this is an example of your average citizen sheeple and is why we are truly fucked.

    1. She likes getting governed good and hard I guess, but cops spending time doing this shit makes me think they might not need a bigger budget next year.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.