Police

Every Year, Police Pull People Over To Give Out Turkeys Instead of Tickets. That Could Be Illegal.

There are better ways to build trust in the community than by violating the Fourth Amendment.

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Thanksgiving is associated with tradition. And it appears there's a relatively new one popular with police departments in recent years: pulling over unsuspecting drivers to give out turkeys instead of tickets.

This holiday season was no exception, with media reports detailing such outreach efforts put on by the Mesa Police Department in Arizona, the McAllen Police Department in Texas, and the Fulton Police Department in Illinois.

The catch: It's potentially against the law.

"They're legal so long as there is reasonable articulate suspicion that a crime was committed," says Andrew Fleischman, a defense attorney with Ross and Pines. "Absent that, it violates the Fourth Amendment."

In other words, the cops haven't violated anyone's constitutional rights if every driver pulled over for a turkey allegedly committed a traffic infraction. But that's not what's going on here.

Some departments aren't exactly hiding it. The cops in Fulton, Illinois, for example, admittedly eschew the Constitution and conduct such traffic stops on those who do follow the rules of the road. "Officers weren't plucking out scofflaws," reads a piece on the program in SaukValley.com. "Rather, they were issuing turkeys instead of tickets, all part of Operation Turkey Stop to reward mindful drivers."

And while other departments aren't necessarily so brazen with the messaging, it stands to reason that officers likely aren't exchanging turkeys for tickets when it comes to drivers who are actively endangering others and abusing the rules of the road.

"I was like 'Oh my God, no, what did I do?'" said Perla Romano, who was stopped in McAllen, Texas. "'I was scared because what did I do? I just panicked.'"

In Mesa, Arizona, cops zero in on those who commit minor civil infractions. Officers focus on "stop sign violations, red light violations, or making wide turns," says Mesa Police Sgt. Chuck Trapani. "We pull them over, and if they didn't have any criminal violations like warrants or anything like that, then we'd give them a warning violation, plus a turkey."*

A spokesperson for the McAllen Police Department was not able to comment and the Fulton Police Department did not respond to Reason's request as of this writing.

Though the initiative may sound benign, the Fourth Amendment exists for a reason: You have a right to privacy, and a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. One wonders what might happen if an officer pulled someone over for a turkey and happened to catch a whiff of marijuana. Trade in that free Thanksgiving dinner for a potential jail cell.

Traffic stops rarely turn violent or deadly. Yet such instances are not unheard of. According to an investigation by The New York Times, police have killed more than 400 unarmed passengers—who were not suspected of any violent crimes—during traffic stops over the last five years, which amounts to more than one death a week. "It's [a] frivolous use of their monopoly on force," says Fleischman.

The spirit behind the program, according to the Mesa Police Department, is to engender affection between officers and the public during a time when cops have faced a sort of unprecedented pushback. Research indicates that such trust is indeed vital to building safer communities. But there are better ways for police to do that than by flouting the rule of law and violating people's constitutional rights.

*UPDATEThis piece has been updated with a comment from the Mesa Police Department.

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  1. Anyone else absolutely despise having a cop behind you on a one lane road? I feel the need to use a pull out as soon as possible.

    Also, they should give away hams. Way funnier.

    1. We have a lot of passing areas. Driving 1 or 2 mph under the limit usually results in them going around at the first opportunity.

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  2. As I understand it Darrell Brooks was fleeing from a cop with a free turkey and accidentally drove through a police barricade after which a red SUV accidently killed six people and injured 50 more. We clearly need common sense free turkey control.

    1. Just don't give away free turkeys to people in assault vehicles. Motorcycles and single seat electric cars get the free turkeys.

      1. He might have been high. The complimentary turkey could have resulted in free basting.

        1. OK that was a stretch. We know you can do better.

          1. You calling that a poultry effort?

            1. Better but not your best.

              1. Will keep you a breast for any new ones.

                1. That's the winner.

                  1. Winner winner chicken turkey dinner?

                    1. We are just gobbling that shit up!

        2. How about the tryptophan made him fall asleep at the wheel?

  3. Sounds like some are crying fowl.

    1. Their goose was cooked.

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  4. Do they also carry tofurky in case they pull over a vegan?

    1. Turkey can be triggering. Also racist. I think.

    2. The carry a sidearm in case they pull over a vegan.

      1. ^Thread winner

  5. Meanwhile.
    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/washington-secrets/2024-blowout-brewing-trump-45-biden-32
    "In what would be one of the biggest political comebacks in American history, former President Donald Trump has surged into a double-digit lead over President Joe Biden in the latest 2024 matchup poll.
    In today’s Rasmussen Reports survey, likely voters picked Trump to beat Biden, 45% to 32% if the election were held today, a gap that is even higher among independents who have become the critical swing group. They chose Trump 47%-20%."
    Reason staff hardest hit.

    1. Those 20% are LINO (libertarian in name only) White Mikes. Incidentally, sarc falls into the category WHINO.

      1. Just wait for the Johnson/Weld comeback in 2024. That 20% will drop to 5%.

        1. I will absolutely vote for the Trump / Johnson ticket.

          1. If Trump ran as an independent, wonder how many progressives would still support ranked choice voting.

          2. No love for Bill Weld?

    2. Sad thing is, Trump would lose again, because Republicans are not willing to cheat as much as Democrats.

  6. Wait What?
    NY Times journalists explore what happens when Democrats have all the power, find out 'blue states are the problem'
    https://www.theblaze.com/news/nyt-blue-states-are-the-problem

    "In key respects, many blue states are actually doing worse than red states," the journalists noted in a written report accompanying the video. "It is in the blue states where affordable housing is often hardest to find, there are some of the most acute disparities in education funding and economic inequality is increasing most quickly."
    "Blue states are the problem," Applebaum, who covers economics and business for the Times, exclaimed.
    "Blue states are where the housing crisis is located. Blue states are where the disparities in education funding are the most dramatic. Blue states are the places where tens of thousands of homeless people are living on the streets. Blue states are the places where economic inequality is increasing most quickly in this country. This is not a problem of not doing well enough; it is a situation where blue states are the problem," he added.

    1. Yeah, quelle surprise. A lot of liberals are NIMBY hypocrites. They want "affordable housing" but they don't want it to affect their property values. They want "quality education for all" but not at the expense of their kids' public schools.

      I think this type of expose, first, disproves the myth that the Democratic Party is full of fire-breathing radicals who want to impose Marxism or some such. They are, by and large, just as much institutionalists as the status-quo conservatives of the past. People like AOC or Liz Warren are the exceptions, not the rule.

      Also, it demonstrates how difficult it is to fix some of these problems like housing and education, from a practical level. Because the incentives for maintaining the status quo are so strong, and because the effort to change the system is so large, nothing substantive gets done, only band-aid fixes. Even the most earnest liberal will likely think twice before voting to devalue his/her own property, or to take funding away from his/her own kids' schools. And Democratic politicians are no different than Republican politicians in the sense of pandering to their voters in order to get re-elected. For instance, Washington State is mentioned in the video of having the most regressive tax system in the nation; this is overwhelmingly because the state has no income tax, every attempt to introduce an income tax is soundly defeated, and every politician proposing an income tax is defeated for election. This entangled system of incentives and punishments is the biggest obstacle to change.

      1. There are things Democrats could do to improve their areas, without causing property values to drop.

        To start, lock up the urban trash smoking weed in the streets and disrupting schools. Make it a misdemeanor to piss or shit in an alley, followed by criminalizing homelessness where shelters are available.

        Put politicians in jail next to prosecutors and judges who fail to enforce the laws important to their community. Force elected officials to surrender campaign funds for every day they are unavailable to meet with constituents, in person.

        Suspend taxes and filing fees in zones where several storefronts are empty to encourage growth. Suspend local and state income taxes on employees making less than $20/hour or $30,000/year.

        All this can immediately boost an area’s quality of life and business growth without harming property values.

      2. Also, it demonstrates how difficult it is to fix some of these problems like housing and education, from a practical level. Because the incentives for maintaining the status quo are so strong, and because the effort to change the system is so large, nothing substantive gets done, only band-aid fixes.

        Re: Education. Covid changed the dynamics. The behavior of teachers unions did not help matters. They collectively shot themselves in the ass. We are now seeing an explosion of public school alternatives. I personally think they should be encouraged, and the tax dollars allocated toward education should follow the child.

        I live in the People's Republic of NJ, in a rather 'tony' town. It is literally a small bubble unto itself. What you wrote was true (based on my direct observations for many years): A lot of liberals are NIMBY hypocrites. They want "affordable housing" but they don't want it to affect their property values. They want "quality education for all" but not at the expense of their kids' public schools.

        Times are changing, chemjeff. My sense is the American people are reaching the point where they now autonomously act. Here is an example: People just ignore mask 'mandates'. They do. And that is a sign of contempt for the law - a stupid law made by executive fiat - but a law nonetheless. When that happens consistently (it is), it will spread to other legal areas where people will simply ignore the law (i.e. now happening with smash and grab mobs).

      3. “….every politician proposing an income tax is defeated for election.”

        No. Not even close. They haven’t gotten their income tax yet, but they are not losing elections.

        That’s just dumb, Jeff.

        1. Of course, it’s from Dumb Jeff.

    2. It's almost like the Ds have been in charge of Detroit, Baltimore, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco and Portland for decades, and those are the places people make fun of......

      1. Democrats are in charge of nearly every city in America. Cities are where Democrats live.

        Now explain what's so fabulous about Bumfuck, Mississippi where Republicans are in charge.

    3. It also seems to be the blue cities that have the biggest problem with "systemic racism" on the police force, which seems unpossible since the Repubs are known to be the party of racism.

    4. Hmm, seems like basic human economics. If you want more of something, make it easier and rewarding. If you want less of something, make it harder and costly.

    5. Do note that their conclusion seems to be that the problem is moderate Democrats not enacting far-left enough policies and not that Red and Purple state policies are more successful at dealing with these issues.

      Wreckers and Kulaks. It's always wreckers and Kulaks.

  7. Cops just enjoy fucking with people. As for the legality of the stops? Since when did the laws apply to those who enforce them?

    1. It's a win-win for the ops.
      Hand out a free turkey, make someone happy and friendlier to the cops.
      If they act strange, it's probable cause.

      1. for the cops, of course, the free turkey ate the c

  8. I’d like to see citizens asserting their right to file criminal complaints and civil lawsuits against any officer involved in this shit.

    Police have a purpose in our society, but they should never initiate action involving a citizen when a crime hasn’t been committed or they’re not rendering life-saving aid.

    The moment they say hello and there’s no reason to do it, I’d like to see them punished. When in uniform, they’re not our friends or neighbors. They’re agents of the state.

    1. Actually, "Hello" is fine as a mark of civility, and probably it should be "Hello, Sir (or Madam)" to further mark that they work for us.

      Beyond that, even "Nice weather", I think you might have a point.

  9. If they pull you over on an admittedly fake probable cause and you've got a martini in the cup holder can they arrest you for an open container violation? Asking for a friend.

    1. I believe technically no, they need probable cause. Yet they will make one up, lane swerve, rolling stop, failure to signal, tail light out, license plate light out, there is always a reason to be made up. The only ones that can legally pull you over without probable cause as far as I know is the US Coast Guard. That has always been the law, and has to do with smuggling, long before drug interdiction.

  10. Every year, Reason trots out this complaint. That's why libertarianism is a clown show.

  11. Seriously? This is fine. There are a lot of reasons to complain about cops. Them being friendly isn't one of them.

    In any other article Reason is like, oh despite the hypothetical there is no record of anything bad happening. That argument is repeated ad infinitum. Well, in this article, Reason posited a number of hypotheticals. Let me respond, has anything bad happened due to a Turkey giveaway?

    And bringing these kinds of complaints just destroys the credibility of legitimate troubles people have with cops.

    Its just like, I found a YouTube channel recently where a bunch of assholes use the "right to record" as an excuse to harass cops who, by the looks of it, are just trying to figure out wtf is happening while people are screaming at them. Yes you have a right to record. But if people associate that right with dumbasses harassing people, suddenly people who advocate for that right lose credibility. The right to record is way to important for that, and we ought to point out that just because you have a right doesn't make certain uses of that right, not illegal, but stupid and immature.

    That was a tangent, but the point, this article is complaining about a non-issue.

    In the case where the officer does say smell marijuana, the officer still needs probable cause. And he doesn't have it, so it's fine. You won't get arrested for that. If there happens to be a kidnapped person, that's a different story. And I'm not entirely sure I thing its such a bad thing in that scenario.

    I understand Reason disagrees with the Supreme Courts interpretation of the fourth with respect to automobiles, and hell, so do I, but its disingenuous to claim that your interpretation is correct and everyone is bad for not following it without mentioning what the actual law is.

    1. Pulling over people is not being friendly. It’s using a ruse that can potentially turn violent. At a minimum, it’s an inconvenience to the motoring public.

      The punishment for that should involve feeding their wallets into a woodchipper. Something very inconvenient.

    2. Every cop I've ever seen was stuffing his face with donuts before shooting a black person and failing to walk like a normal person because of his extreme, extreme obesity.

      Fuck maturity. Fuck cops.

    3. Reason, again, misses perhaps the biggest libertarian point. Taxpayers shouldn't be forced to pay the government so any part of it advertises for more government. That is tyranny.

      "Let me respond, has anything bad happened due to a Turkey giveaway?" Yes, people had their money taken away from them for the police to waste their time dealing with actual turkeys instead of the turkeys among us who engage in crime. It's costing us more to be less safe - which is bad.

  12. "In the case where the officer does say smell marijuana, the officer still needs probable cause. And he doesn't have it, so it's fine. You won't get arrested for that. "

    Bullshit. Of course you will, because that's what a hammer does to everything that looks like a nail. Will you walk as soon as even a half-wit public defender points out the obvious flaws in the arrest? Sure. But you're still spending the night in a cell and getting printed and mug-shot. A cop can arrest you because FYTW.

    Besides, the whole point is to be left the fuck alone without the threat of armed violence by an agent of the state. If some random private citizen, social worker, or even a cop for that matter wants to go knocking on doors handing out free turkeys, then go for it. I can always slam my door or just not answer it. But when I'm driving along and a cop flashes his blue lights, if I don't pull over I'm guilty of "failing to obey a blue light" or however your state words it, even if the cop just wanted to give me a turkey.

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