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Probable Stupidity
I don't know about you, but it's hard enough to leave enough time to get places I have to be without being late (rude if someone will be kept waiting) and/or without endangering other people on the road. I do manage, ADHD and all -- mainly because I'm generally not being pulled over by well-meaning but dunderheaded cops like the ones in this AP story:

Police are stopping law-abiding motorists and rewarding their good driving with $5 Starbucks gift cards.

A traffic officer came up with the idea to "promote the holiday spirit and enhance goodwill between the traffic unit and the motoring public," police Sgt. Tim Curran said.

Local businesses donated money to buy the gift cards.

"They raised a substantial amount of money," Curran said. "They'll be pulling over a lot of people."

Leave me alone. I'll buy my own damn coffee. How about you catch a car thief, a bank robber, or a drunk driver instead?

Posted by aalkon at December 19, 2007 10:41 AM


I have another idea. They can take my license info from the dashboard camera without pulling me over, and MAIL me the gift card. Saves us both the time and interruption.

Big Brother's already watching, but it'd be nice for them to send me a gift now and then.

Wait, I forgot there might be the initial "oh, crap" reaction when I see the letterhead and think it's a ticket for being caught by a stop light camera. Nevermind.

Posted by: Jamie at December 19, 2007 4:43 AM

This is my biggest pet peeve. Some moron or some organization comes up with some idiotic notion like this and if you're not on board simply because you want to go about your day not bothered by the inanity, you're Ebeenezer Scrooge or worse.

Frankly, I blame the Golden Rule. If anything's way overrated, that damned thing is. Some idiot comes up with something like this and thinks "hey, I'd really love it if someone would show me how much they appreciate my being a good motorist by I don't know giving me a free cup of coffee or something" then the golden rule kicks in and they can't even consider the possibility that just because they'd like it that doesn't necessarily mean everyone would. I think the Golden Rule is about the most egotistical thing around.

But that made me glad I'm a pedestrian and bus rider. And why Starbucks? I hate coffee and I've never been in a Starbucks in my life. I realize that makes me unusual but why assume a good driver likes Starbucks? Frankly, I'd think a gas gift certificate would be more appropriate if the gesture was sincere. (Why do I suspect more motivation than what they're claiming? Maybe I'm just paranoid but I smell a rat.)

Posted by: Donna at December 19, 2007 4:51 AM

Giving Starbuckbs Coffee away to good motorist,sure seems stupid to me, for one thing it would only tend to wire up some already questionable drivers. I think that the police would be better liked if they had a big sign on their car that I could read in my rearview mirror that said I was driving ok. That way I would not panic when I saw them come up behind me I would know they were on their way to something important.

Posted by: Ronald Speegle at December 19, 2007 5:02 AM

I like the idea of rewarding good drivers.

Pulling them over to give out a gift certificate seems a little much.

Hand them out at stoplights, or parking lots.

Posted by: doombuggy at December 19, 2007 5:28 AM

I don't drink and drive, I might hit a bump and spill my drink! This includes coffee; I can wait until I get to work to have a cup. So please don't pull me over just to give me a gift certificate for that, I can't think of anything stupider. Well, maybe I can, just not right now.

(Way off topic, but the header of this one made me think of it, and here I quote myself:

The probability of someone watching you is directly proportional to the stupidity of your actions. o_O)

Posted by: Flynne at December 19, 2007 5:51 AM

I often jokingly complain, when a cop with a radar unit catches me going at a legal speed, that cops *never* stop me and give me a certificate of compliance that I could send to my auto insurance agent. But I wouldn't want them to, actually.

A couple of years ago I read about a town that tried something like this, and had to stop almost immediately because everyone was complaining. Like Amy (and almost everybody else), they didn't want their lives interrupted, even to receive a compliment.

I do think police officers should make an effort to interact regularly in a friendly way with other members of the community--to do a little outreach, not just spend *all* their time trying to "catch a car thief, a bank robber, or a drunk driver instead." It's just that pulling people over is not a well chosen icebreaker.

Posted by: Axman at December 19, 2007 6:22 AM

It's not just the time spent (although, if I were on my way to a job interview, an appointment, or pretty much anything but the grocery store, the time would *definitely* matter).

It's the fact that when you see those flashing lights behind you, the immediate reaction is NOT "oooh, did I earn a gift card?" It's "oh, [insert 4-letter word of your choice], what the [insert 4-letter word of your choice] is THIS for?"

No silly little $5 gift card is going to calm me down enough to compensate for that shot of unpleasantness, much less leave me feeling better than I did before seeing the lights . . . .

Posted by: jenl1625 at December 19, 2007 6:28 AM

I wonder what happens when someone, who maybe has bootleg CDs or other illegal stuff in the car, makes a run for it? Do the police give chase?

Posted by: Clinky at December 19, 2007 6:45 AM

I wonder if, in exchange for this free advertising, Starbucks "contributed" to the local Police Protective Association.

Posted by: Rebecca at December 19, 2007 8:12 AM

There is something to be said for an effort meant to increase the "community" element of neighborhood policing. However, this seems like a very well-intentioned, foolish way of going about it.

Anyone else out there old enough to remember when kids were encouraged to approach and get to know their local police officer with the reward of limited-edition high-gloss LA Dodger baseball cards? Does that still happen?

Posted by: snakeman99 at December 19, 2007 9:42 AM

The police here have their own "baseball" style cards carrying information about themselves and what they do for the force. Kids are encouraged to collect them and they can be quite popular.

Posted by: moreta at December 19, 2007 11:40 AM

Sounds like a great way around probable cause!

Posted by: Tommy Jefferson at December 19, 2007 12:00 PM

It isn't worth $30 or $50 to me in free anything to be pulled over by a cop when I've done nothing wrong. Leave me be, that's reward enough. Maybe smile and wave if you're really compelled. But, really, I'll feel best if you just ignore me and let me continue on my way.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 19, 2007 12:34 PM

moreta -

That is becoming a very popular method of familiarizing kids with the police. Our neighborhood does the same thing, as do the transit cops. Must be rather effective, as my son knows several transit cops and their dogs by name. We already know the police who patrol in our neighborhood, so the cards for them were just a plus. Considering all the things that cops do that annoy me, I have to admit that I think this one is a great idea.

On the notion of getting pulled over for a fucking gift card, I have to say that I would be more than a little irate about it. I drive as absolutely little as possible, preferring to take public trans if I don't have somewhere I really have to be, with my tools. On the occasions when I do drive, the very last thing I need is to be slowed down.

With the exception of the monthly big grocery trip, if I am driving, odds are I am charging someone for doing so. Or I am on the way to do a bid. Either way, time is money and a five dollar gift card, I'm unlikely to use, is not a good substitute. Especially if I end up late to a bid and lose the job (not that that is likely to happen, I give myself plenty of time - still).

Posted by: DuWayne at December 19, 2007 12:34 PM

The police, well-meaning, are being played.

Seems to me, Starbucks is the winner here, to the point that they may have as well donated the gift certificates themselves.

After all:

(1) Such a donation would be tax deductible

(2) $5 doesn't go all that far at Starbucks; chances are, the person who receives the "reward" will wind up spending extra cash. And maybe even become a repeat customer.

What's the old drug dealers' come-on? Oh, yeah: "First one's free."

Posted by: todd at December 19, 2007 2:13 PM

"Sounds like a great way around probable cause!"

Thank you. That is exactly the first thing I said when I saw this Crap.

Posted by: Tomre Utsu Zo at December 19, 2007 8:14 PM

Stupid, stupid idea. As far as getting around probable cause, I'm sure a good lawyer could sink their case in a heartbeat (albeit a very expensive heartbeat). Unless you run from them, this is still not a legitimate traffic stop. If they are looking for reasons to pull you over to troll for felons they have many other ways to do that.
I think that they are just tools that are being used.

Posted by: Aardvark at December 20, 2007 12:17 PM

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