Bridgeport, Connecticut police stopped cars on the day before Thanksgiving, and surprised the motorists by handing them turkeys rather than tickets.
Too bad it’s per se unethical conduct, an abuse of power and position, and a dangerous precedent. This is unpleasant déjà vu, for I’ve written this post before, more than once, and as many times in this year than the previous seven years combined. It’s pretty obvious why. Police, who were being shot and ambushed all over the country last week, are desperate to endear themselves to citizens and validate their role as a beneficent force in the community, which needs no validation.
“It’s a way of giving back, reaching out to the community and making sure everyone has a meal for thanksgiving,” says Bridgeport Police Capt. Roderick Porter, not getting it at all. I wonder what would have happened if one of those turkey stops was a fleeing felon. Would objections have been raised if the white cops only stopped black motorists, to say “We like you! We really like you! Here’s a turkey!”
Here comes the déjà vu again: As I wrote about the ice cream caper, which was pretty much the same thing:
Stopping a car to do anything unrelated to police work is an abuse of power and authority, and unethical. It doesn’t matter if it’s a well-intentioned abuse of power, or a nice abuse of power. It’s wrong, and I would make the case that it’s also illegal, no matter how nice it is.
I’m glad I wasn’t caught on camera, because my message would have been this:
“How dare you make me think I’m getting a ticket so you can feel good about your job? I have things to do, and you have no right to stop me, or waste my time. If I want an ice-cream cone, or a cup-cake, or massage, or a song, I’ll get one from someone whose job it is to supply those products and services, not law enforcement personnel, whose job is law enforcement. Get out of my face, officer, and look up the word “professional.” Don’t inconvenience innocent citizens because you need a hug.”
And from the commentary on the police who used a fake traffic stop to play a part in a cute marriage proposal…
This is wrong, wrong, wrong; an especially horrible example of the “Awww!” Factor, in which conduct that makes sentimental souls get all gooey inside is mistaken for ethical conduct. Police may not make fake traffic stops, which are illegal, dishonest, and an abuse of authority…It’s good public relations for dumb members of the public, perhaps. For anyone capable of critical thought, NYPD police acting like this makes the department’s judgement appear worse, and the its trustworthiness seem minimal.
Thinking about these types of police abuses right now makes me realize, to paraphrase the old Chinese proverb, that if the only ethics miscreants on your mind are the grandstanding actors in “Hamilton,” every victim looks like Mike Pence.
The two breaches have a lot in common. In both cases, professionals exceed the traditional, stated, agreed-upon and legitimate boundaries of their position and authority to deliver a product they unilaterally decide justifies the unethical means. In both cases, the target of the action is captive, and in both cases, the unethical parties are oh so proud of themselves.
In this analogy, the Hamilton cast is the Bridgeport police, the theater is the automobiles, and the lecture to Mike Pence is the turkey. The analogy would be even better if the police handed out sweet potato mash instead of turkey, and made motorists eat it right there in the car.
Pointer: Jay Marshall Wohlman