On Monday, Arizona’s NBC affiliate 12 News reported that police in Tempe would be pulling over drivers who are following traffic laws to reward them with a coupon for a drink at a Circle-K convenience store. The idea faced immediate backlash from critics who pointed out that this could be a massive inconvenience (and possibly a violation of the Fourth Amendment) for drivers, if not an outright traumatic experience particularly for people of color.
No. I do not want to be pulled over to be thanked for following traffic laws. Being pulled over is traumatic and stressful. Getting a free drink at Circle K is not worth it. https://t.co/0VVvcqw16H— Touré (@Toure) July 29, 2019
Officer: I pulled you over today because you *followed* the law.— Matt J.K. (@MattJKoe) July 29, 2019
O: You will get a free drink at Circle K.
C: What about my Fourth Amendment rights?
O: Your what?
C: Fourth Amend..
O: I’m going to need you to step out of the car. pic.twitter.com/foeaVJUPr2
*Late for work— Scott Williams (@jswilliams1962) July 29, 2019
Boss: Why are you late?
Me: I got pulled over by the police.
Boss: Show me a copy of the ticket.
Me: I didn’t get a ticket, I got a Circle K coupon.
Boss: You’re fired
As it turned out, the report wasn’t all that accurate—cops said they will not be pulling people over, but rather talking to people on the street. “If you see an officer out and about and he walks up to talk to you or she walks up to talk to you, it’s probably because he or she wants to talk to you about some of the traffic laws,” Detective Greg Bacon told AZFamily.com. Still, no thank you!
While misreported, it’s easy to see why people were so quick to believe that the police were conducting a “positive ticketing campaign” as stunts like this are not unheard of. On the first season of Queer Eye, Karamo had to explain to one of their heteros, who was a cop, why pulling over a black man as a “prank” at the beginning of the show was not actually funny. (Hopefully, production noted this, as well.) In 2016, ABC News reported on a group of cops who’d pull people over with the line “Are you familiar with vehicle code 188.8.131.52? It’s actually against the law to drive on a hot day without an ice cream cone,” before giving them free ice cream, and presumably a panic-induced heart attack.
If you want to know why someone might be nervous interacting with cops, police ticket, search and arrest Black and Hispanic drivers more often than white drivers for the same infractions. And multiple times, cops have shot drivers for following instructions at a pull over. It’s a painful and pressing issue that no jokey harassment or promise of a free drink can adequately address. So apologies to the fine folks at the Circle-K, but if I’m going to be, at best, inconvenienced, and at worst, approached by police in a thinly-veiled attempt to skirt probable cause, police departments will need to pony up quite a bit more. Like, say:
- Free Circle-K for life. If you made me think I was going to die, the least you can do is let me take what I want whenever I want without being charged with shoplifting.
- A coupon to the tasting menu at Per Se. It’s good again!
- My weight in black truffles. That way I can smell expensive to other cops, who will then mysteriously not attempt to detain me.
- Lunch for my entire office, courtesy of the local PD, so that my boss doesn’t boot me for being late.
- A Cheeto shaped like a fluffy penguin. It’s not much, but when I’m detained for whatever reason the cops come up with, I can sell it on eBay for $1,000 and pay bail once I’ve been detained for screaming at the cop that pulled me over with no just cause.
If these foods seem difficult to obtain, you could send a pamphlet about safe driving instead or, you know, buy some billboards like you did for seatbelts.