It isn’t a polite sentiment, but if cops don’t enjoy the rudeness, they might start by doing their fucking jobs as commissioned under the law and refraining from jackbooted totalitarianism and harebrained reality TV melodrama under color of authority. Then citizens would have credible reasons to show them some magnanimity.
1) Residents of Harlem were begging the NYPD to reach out to their neighborhood’s vulnerable, impulsive teenagers and negotiate them out of their cycle of retaliatory street violence. Instead, the NYPD and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office used a social media dragnet to sweep up indirect parties to the violence on overbroad “conspiracy” grounds and abrogate the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution. With the complicity of a Kafkaesque judge, they kept one defendant in jail on Riker’s Island for a year and a half while deliberately delaying his trial and withholding evidence from his defense counsel in an effort to force him to accept a plea bargain for a twenty-year prison sentence. The defendant was finally released on bail after his attorney filed a motion for a speedy trial, and the charges against him were dropped several months later.
2) The road to hell is paved with the idiotic good intentions of civil servants who should know better, and maybe not so much with pavement since the local authorities are devoting personnel to bogus Secret Santa police stops. The Jackson County, MO, Sheriff’s Department has been deploying patrol deputies to pull over motorists who look like they’re poor, hand them several hundred dollars, and give Steve Hartman a four-hour human-interest erection. It’s a mashup of Publishers Clearing House and Andy Griffith, except for the matter of its involving real deputies with real guns, real cruisers, and real arrest powers. In other words, they’re being dispatched on county time to drive around Kansas City scaring the shit out of people, then telling them that they were just punked and Secret Santa wanted them to have this money.
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department needs to be sued over these stunts. I don’t see the least bit of malice in this scheme or have any reason to believe that any law enforcement agency in the Kansas City area is troubled by Missouri standards, but none of this really matters. What these cops are doing is so fucking reckless and shows such atrocious judgment that it absolutely should result in the deputies involved being summoned for depositions, their agency being forced into a public settlement and admission of liability for bad practices, and an injunction against the execution of similar traffic stops in the future. Ideally, this injunction would be a blanket injunction applying to all law enforcement agencies statewide, or better yet, nationwide, although there would be problems with jurisdiction, standing, and maybe, unfortunately, prior restraint for an injunction not narrowly applied to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department.
The problem here is not with the Secret Santa tradition. The problem is quite simply with the bogus traffic stops by sworn, armed law enforcement officers. There is no justification for bogus traffic stops. That’s all there is to it. The positive outcome of the recipients getting cash to buy their children Christmas presents cannot be entered into the legal calculus. This is a situation in which process matters. These are law enforcement officers. They need to be held to a higher standard than that in the performance of their official duties.
Nothing about Secret Santa programs requires peace officers to effect bogus traffic stops. The JCSD program is just one exceptionally horrible way to find Secret Santa recipients out of a host of options that are mostly quite ethical and reasonable. It’s also one of the worst ways the Sheriff’s Department could have gone about holiday season community outreach. My mom made the astute suggestion that the department could instead host an open house with free refreshments. An open house probably would have attracted far more people than the deputies reached with their bogus traffic stops, and it wouldn’t have involved the least element of coercion.
And of course they had to invite Steve Hartman along. Steve Hartman is a treacly, smarmy, sentimentality-whoring piece of shit. He thinks bogus traffic stops are cute as long as they involve some heartwarming surprise at the end, like a fistful of cash money. Aww, wasn’t that so cute that these poors got punked by the cops and given holiday money instead of a citation! No, it wasn’t cute; it was a blatant violation of basic patrol protocol. Idiotic protocol violations by sworn law enforcement officers are not fucking cute. This stunt was so stupid and lawless that any police academy recruit who suggests such a thing should be yelled at by the loudest sergeant in the joint about responsibility and good judgment and how an unsuspecting member of the public would feel on the receiving end of an unexplained traffic stop until he’s bowing like a Japanese industrial executive in the aftermath of a defective product scandal. Of course, every cop who’s out attention-whoring for Steve Hartman and his video crew is one less cop who’s available to yell some sense into the denser cohorts at the academy.
It’s also one less cop who’s available to reach out to Kansas City’s truly down-and-out, some of whom were found raising babies in an underground dirt warren last year. The police apparently did a good job of placing the evicted residents of the warren with social services when they demolished it last year, but there’s no telling what other poverty horror shows they’re missing while they’re busy with departmental attention-whoring missions on national TV. These aren’t bad cops; the ones Hartman showed actually looked pretty damn well suited to the job. It’s just a rotten shame that they got roped into such a wildly inappropriate and legally edgy stunt.
Jim Crow Facebook dragnets and televised Horatio Alger flashing blue light specials: isn’t it a great country, America!