ANYONE WHO has been stopped by the police knows that sinking feeling. But cops in the city of Lowell, Michigan, turned the despair of the traffic stop into tidings of comfort and joy one day in the run-up to Christmas by handing over presents.
Drivers pulled over for minor violations such as illegal tinted windows were questioned by officers to see if they had finished their Christmas shopping. Those who were having a bad day were amazed to be given the gifts they still needed to buy instead of a ticket.
The idea was the brainchild of UP, an American television channel that promises “uplifting entertainment” and asked the Lowell police department to take part.
“Most of the contact police officers have with the public is on a traffic stop, and you can find out a lot about that person in that 10-15 minute window: whether they’re having a good day, a bad day or a horrible day,” said Steve Bakula, chief of police in Lowell. “And then we got this idea: what if we could change that person’s day in real time?”
During the stops, Santa’s elves waited in a local department store for information over the radio about what was on the driver’s Christmas shopping list. They would then find and buy the item and deliver it to the officer while he was still in conversation with the motorist.
The police have defended themselves against the charge that the stunt could be seen as making light of law-breaking. The final slide on the video explains: “While we don’t encourage minor traffic violations, it’s important for police departments to take the time to show their citizens just how much they care.”
As yet there’s no news on whether British police will be picking up the idea.