Ethics Dunces: The Quincy (California) Police


Awww, isn’t this cute?

I’ve got bad new for you, Quincy, California:

You aren’t serious enough.

The England-based company Wall’s… set a crew up in Quincy on April 11 to film a commercial to be aired online later this month…On Friday, April 11, the crew set up multiple cameras around the courthouse…The premise of the commercial was simple. Hagwood, along with Deputy Sgt. Carson Wingfield and actor Scott Peat from Los Angeles, would pull cars over in front of the courthouse for “driving too serious.”The commercial filmed in Quincy will be part of a larger ad campaign by Wall’s. Filming also took place in such countries as the United Arab Emirates and Columbia. The global message is simple: don’t take life so seriously.

At around noon last Friday, filming began. Rather than receiving a ticket, drivers were given a complimentary ice cream cone and their expressions and reactions were filmed for the commercial. All the drivers pulled over reacted well, and generally enjoyed being a part of the commercial….To show appreciation to Quincy for allowing the stunt, Wall’s held an ice cream social at the Dame Shirley Plaza later that afternoon. Droves of people showed up for free ice cream and live music.

It may be cute, but it is also unprofessional, unethical, and outrageous. Law enforcement is a serious responsibility always, with no breaks for ice cream commercials. Using the police power to pull over motorists on false pretenses to assist a company’s advertising campaign is an abuse of power, and illegal. Gee, I wonder what other gags this police department will pull for the right price?

I hope someone sues. A town cannot ethically rent out its police and use them to dragoon citizens into an ice cream commercial. No one complicit in this corrupt sell-out should be trusted with a budget, a title, or a gun. Ever.


Pointer: Fred

Facts: Plumas County

17 thoughts on “Ethics Dunces: The Quincy (California) Police

    • I thought exactly the same thing. If the town wanted to cooperate, then all that was needed was some official permission to “impersonate police officers” in a very specific, limited way along with some basic oversight by the city (not necessarily a police officer, either) on-site to ensure that the actors are ONLY doing what they have been given permission to do.


  1. Quincy California is one of the few places in California I would care to live. I agree selling out the police department is a bad idea, but Quincy is such a nice place to live the idea that the police would give out ice cream instead of tickets isn’t all that far fetched.
    I’m sure I’ve committed several violations of the ethics rationalizations. I don’t have time to look up which ones.

    • Try re-reading Marshall’s post. The POLICE should NEVER (no matter how “nice” the town) be involved in an advertising campaign for ANYTHING. They have a highly prescribed job to do, and participating in ads for ICE CREAM is not one of them. Good grief! And if Quincy is so law-abiding that the police have nothing better to do than give out free ice cream as part of an ad campaign, then cut the police force and use the funds for something constructive, not this silly exercise that is antithetical to the role of the police in any community.

      Some social service agency(ies) — probably in dire need of funds in what I assume is a relatively small city with a relatively small budget — should file suit against both the police and the ice cream company. Let’s get to the rationalizations they used, and see how they fit with the obligations of the police force. For me, I would toss the cone out the window, and ask the policeman to get out and do his goddamn job.

  2. Has anyone ever watched the TV show called “Just for Laughs Gags”? It’s a spin-off of Montreal’s filmed comedy festival “Just for Laughs”. The show is a series of short clips where people get pranked set to clown music. It’s VERY common to see people dressed as police (or actual police, I’m never quite sure, but they have a car that looks pretty legit) pulling various pranks… which more often than not they do without pants on. I thought the same thing. These people getting pranked. They’re busy. They might be late for work. They might get fired. Why doesn’t someone sue?

  3. I recall recently seeing a video “going around,” that must have been about this Wall’s deal with the Quincy police – on Facebook, or in some other corner of the Internet which I happened to visit recently. I thought it might have been some kind of oddball public service announcement – maybe, even, a make-nice initiative by a P.D. in a small town, that might have followed some events or talk in that town involving “mean” police.

    I guess I was mistaken, or worse, bamboozled, “had” by someone, even if a most immediately adjacent someone who pointed me to the video only meant well. I had no idea that what I saw was this Quincy deal, but that must have been what I saw. I agree with Jack’s point about the pulling-over and detention of motorists and passengers being so wrong under the made-up circumstances. I would be surprised if no one on the police force blew the whistle on the whole deal, either from the top down or from the bottom up. I suspect someone did speak up, possibly also suggesting to merely do the usual police job of notifying the public about a potential traffic jam due to an upcoming ice cream giveaway, but got shouted down – maybe not literally shouted down, but pressured to go along.

    As our society grows ever more into a police state, pranks involving police under any circumstances and for any reason are more un-funny than ever. Now I am feeling like a sick, twisted freak for having enjoyed the Jump Street movie with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. I wish I could say that I am sure my laughing while watching that movie was laughing at absurdity out of nostalgia – that is, conditioned to think that we still live in a society where it’s easy to suspend disbelief and to separate realities of “police life” from some absurd depiction in a movie intended solely for laughs. But now, after thinking about it some more, I am more sure that I was laughing during that movie because I was laughing at myself for other wishful thinking – namely, wishing that no police state would ever employ cops, whether on the beat or in the corner offices, who were such goofballs.

  4. This is like Obama on “Between Two Ferns” with Zack Galafianakis, or anything that happens at a White House Correspondent’s Dinner. Those in authority want so badly to look hip and with it that they are willing to completely discredit themselves in the process.

  5. It is a cute, charming, unexpected and often hilarious abuse of police authority. Every time I see something like this, and it is not that rare, it makes me cringe. Unless we wise up a detained driver will eventually file a completely humorless 4th amendment action and spoil all the fun.

    • I just sent a private apology to the retired sheriff’s deputy with whom I shared the video the other day. “Abuse of authority” was almost word-for-word among what I was apologizing for missing (along with a “grotesque misuse of LE resources”), when I first saw the video and in my ignorance, failing to see what was actually going on, rushed to share it.

    • And if you refuse to stop for a fake infraction of “driving too seriously,” would they be able to shoot you? your tires? Arrest you for defying the police? I don’t care how charming this town is—this is the arrogance of power, and nobody should mistake it for anything less.

      • I am not convinced that it is arrogance, but a failure to appreciate the weight of the authority. The reaction I get from the colleagues who do not immediately object is along the lines of “what a harmlessly fun way to have a positive interaction with the public.” The tears in this video should be like a gut punch to any police leader who thinks this is fun, charming or cute. It is gut wrenching for good law abiding people to be stopped by the police, no matter how well intended an unlawful seizure is, it is still unlawful and someone someday is not going to laugh it off with an ice cream cone.

        As for someone refusing to stop? Shutting off the lights and wishing the whole thing never happened is the only way to keep a bad situation from becoming much worse.

  6. Even in “Mayberry, NC” Sheriff Andy Taylor took enforcing the law seriously even if he was lenient with some of the town’s inhabitants. This whole episode in Quincy sounds like a awful April fools joke. A bad decision indeed, Deputy Sgt. Carson Wingfield to get involved in this stunt.

  7. Lighten up. I’m from Quincy, born and raised. It was cute. The commercial is funny and folks had a good time. The point of the ad (as you pointed out) was to not take life too seriously. Thanks for the illustration of that point. Is it perhaps that you just didn’t get any ice cream?

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