Fourth Amendment

Are Cop-Assisted Promposals Charming or Alarming?

Stopping drivers without a legal justification is unconstitutional, even in the name of young love.


After a police officer pulls over a teenaged girl without any legal justification and frightens her to the verge of tears, the local press portrays the incident as charming rather than alarming. You know what that means: Prom season is upon us.

The cop-assisted promposal, in which police help a teenager carry out a prank that ends with an invitation to the big dance, has become a familiar springtime ritual, documented in online videos and feel-good newspaper stories. But beneath the warm and fuzzy images of adolescent couples lurks a disturbing willingness to tolerate abuses of power by police officers as long as their motives are pure.

When a cop makes a traffic stop, he is using his special powers as an armed agent of the state to forcibly detain someone. Under the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits "unreasonable searches and seizures," he needs a good reason to use those powers—typically, "reasonable suspicion" of a crime or traffic violation.

There is no promposal exception to the Fourth Amendment. Yet police officers across the country are happy to make traffic stops in the name of young love.

Last month, for instance, Isaac Nusbaum, a student at White Knolls High School in Lexington, South Carolina, enlisted the help of South Congaree Officer Eddie Stone to arrange a "fake traffic stop" for his girlfriend, Candice Derrick. Nussbaum was hiding in Stone's police truck with flowers and a sign that said, "Will you be my partner N crime and go to prom with me?"

The State, a newspaper based in Columbia, South Carolina's capital, covered the incident as a heart-warming human interest story, although it conceded that getting pulled over by the cops "can be a startling experience" and noted that the prank "might have been too realistic" for the object of Nusbaum's affections. "I may have went just a little too far with it when I almost made her cry," Stone admitted on the South Congaree Police Department's Facebook page.

But the important thing, Stone wrote, is that "she said YES" to Nusbaum's "very sweet" invitation. Stone thanked the couple for "letting the Town of South Congaree and myself be part of this special moment for you two."

In another special moment last January, police in Oxford, Mississippi, pulled over a teenager who was on a date with his girlfriend and pretended to arrest him on an outstanding warrant. The boy revealed the trick by holding up a sign that said, "I'm locked up so I can lock you down for prom."

"I'm about to start crying," the girl says in the promposal video after seeing the sign. "This is not funny. You scared me."

A teenaged Kansas couple was so enamored of the false-arrest theme that they carried it over to the prom itself. After a Greenwood County sheriff's deputy pulled Alexis Berndt over so her boyfriend, Daniel Huber, could surprise her with a pomprosal sign ("Can I cop you into going to prom?"), she turned the tables by arranging for him to be handcuffed while the couple rode to the prom in a police car.

My friend Lauren Krisai, a policy analyst at the Justice Action Network, picked that last example as "this year's most outrageous promposal." Despite the positive press coverage such stunts receive, she says, they "are neither cute nor legal."

While the cuteness of these prom pranks is in the eye of the beholder, their legality is not. Stopping drivers without a legal justification is unconstitutional, and overlooking that point for the sake of something as frivolous as a prom invitation invites cops to cut corners when the stakes are more serious.

Police are supposed to abide by the Constitution even when doing so makes it harder to convict someone they're convinced is guilty. They should not be taking their cues from people who think it's not just OK but positively delightful to violate the Fourth Amendment so that Dan can ask Lexi to the prom.

© Copyright 2018 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. The moral of the story is that teenagers are idiots.

    Film never, because FOSTA.

    1. i thought the moral of the story is that cops are idiots.

      teens being idiots is a given.

      1. Reason needs a thumbs up feature. Consider this the next best thing, Jay.

    2. BTW, has anyone started taking bets on how soon till a cop shoots one of these would be dates due to some furtive form of misundestanding?

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  2. Sooner or later, some promposal victim will panic and either flee from the police or simply not pull over soon enough, or be so outraged when the truth comes out as to punch or kick the cop.

    Who’s going to explain that one away?

    1. The cop will obviously feel endangered and put nine or ten bullets in the thuggish teen. Good shoot.

    2. yeah, say the kid had alcohol in the car and panicked, now they are in a high speed persuit/evading situation. Is the refusal to pull over for an unwarranted stop going to trigger cop on “respect my authoritah” grounds, or will it simply shift the cop into preditor pray mode? (not that the end result would be much different either way)

    3. Hoe about a severe panic attack or heart attack or stroke?…..It does happen to young people once in a very rare while!

  3. Really, asking anyone out in a big showy way that puts them on the spot in front of a bunch of people is iffy.

  4. Who is doing, you know, patrol work while the cop on duty is perpetrating promposals? And if the cops have enough free time to be pulling this nonsense, perhaps we too many of them?

    1. ICEMAN — “Mavrick, I’m curious.. Who was covering Cougar while you were showboating with this MiG?” MAVRICK — “Cougar was doing just fine…”

    2. ICEMAN — “Mavrick, I’m curious.. Who was covering Cougar while you were showboating with this MiG?” MAVRICK — “Cougar was doing just fine…”

  5. I’m of two minds on this.
    1: As someone who works with LEO’s (dispatcher), I like that it helps to humanize Officers. It makes approaching and talking to a LEO much easier. However, handcuffing someone isn’t something to be done frivolously.
    2: this puts Officers in a bad position should someone complain. After all, the name of the game is CYA (“Cover Your Ass” for those who don’t know) and could create liability for the Dept.

    1. yknow what might help “humanize officers”? if they would stop killing unarmed kids & dogs, charing for resisting arrest without a predicate offense, stop using union resources to defend murderous/abusive/racist cops & stop bankrupting our communities with corrupt pension agreements. until something changes on that front, wasting tax payer resources on “promposals” isnt going to be cute for anyone except the police themselves.

    2. Is “two minds” a class of mental gymnastics people working in LE develop to explain clearly egregious behavior?

  6. But beneath the warm and fuzzy images of adolescent couples lurks a disturbing willingness to tolerate abuses of power by police officers as long as their motives are pure.

    It’s gotten to the point where abuse of power is not even a concept. Cops only have authority when they are enforcing the law. Anything else that they do is an abuse of power. If the cop has no reason to suspect a crime has been committed, they have no authority. None. But they still believe that you must obey their every whim, and they will use violence on you if you don’t. That is abuse of power, and it is routine. It is tolerated because people are told that abuse of power is no such thing. Well, unless the victim is black and the cop is white.

  7. Do you know what promposals–cop assisted or not– are?

    None of your fucking business.

    Can you people, just for a second, remember that you’re pretending to be libertarians?

    1. Eh, frivolous usage of public funds and abusive use of the police power are squarely within the libertarian wheelhouse. Try harder, concern trollolololol.

      1. So it’s ‘no’ then.

        Fuck off, slaver.

    2. No effort should be made to prevent loss of freedom, as it occurs to others?

      It doesn’t matter until they come for you?


      In my mind, that’s an easy way to ensure a gun fight, for your life, in your future.


      I’m of the mindset that we should protect our freedoms. I feel confident in my ability to stand up for and defend my own freedoms, but should that be the absolute extent?

  8. Maybe the girls who are asked to prom in this way should start saying no to their dipshit boyfriends who somehow think this is a good idea?

    1. Wait for the #metoo hashtags on this.
      “I really didn’t want to say yes, but the cops scared me into not saying no.”

      1. Suppose Candice had decided to stomp on the gas pedal instead of getting pulled over by the cops at lame-ass Isaac’s behest.

        “Dreamy Joaquin has asked me to prom. I can’t get pulled over. I might get grounded.”

  9. I love it when Sullum preaches the good word on these pages. Fuck cops and their bullshit abuses of power.

  10. I just came here to find out if “promposal” was a typo, a neologism, a typo of a neologism, or a $10 word I ain’t never heard.

  11. I don’t find it particularly alarming and charming is a matter of taste, but it’s definitely not what I pay my taxes for cops to do.

  12. Something something….Krusty the Clown’s handcuff safe word.

    What’s your safe word, Crusty?

  13. Ah! Yes! It’s the old “The ends justify the means” argument, huh? Isn’t it just too, too cute?

  14. I’m an old fucker, but when did “The Prom” become “Prom”. Sounds stupid.

    “I’m going to Prom, mom.”

    “Have fun at The Prom, son.”

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