As a journalist reporting nationwide on crime for Examiner.com I regularly come across a varied assortment of stories about law enforcement. When I viewed this video of actual members of the Pumas County Sheriff's Office pulling people over in Quincy, California as part of an advertising campaign for ice cream I found myself absolutely outraged. I will not be linking to the brand of ice cream, as I am wholly uninterested in being part of their corporate manipulation to inundate the masses. You may view the video in question which is attached to the top of this article.
How could these members of law enforcement be engaged in this type of behavior? Who authorized the sheriff to pull citizens over as part of a commercial? The mayor? The governor? Did the sheriff make this decision unilaterally? Was the Sheriff's Office monetarily compensated? Did sheriff and deputies do filming while on the clock, thereby forcing the taxpayer to foot the bill while they manipulated the rights of innocent citizens? Under what authority is it legal for the sheriff to use their powers to detain people for the purposes of shooting a commercial? Were the rights of those violated to the point of filing civil litigation? Who would pay for the defense of the commercial? The tax payer, yet again? What if one of the individuals who was unlawfully stopped had decided to run, or had a warrant, or was engaged in otherwise illegal activity? Would the stop have been legal, and would the arrest have been justified in the realm of probable cause? Were these people being detained? What if one decided to drive off? Would that have been considered fleeing and alluding? Were there no crimes or legal matters which required the sheriff's attention? All cases had been solved? No criminals were presently being sought via warrant? Let's also not overlook the glaring issue that the office of sheriff is an elected position. How do the voters feel about a top law enforcement official pulling over private citizens when they had not broken any laws?
There are far too many questions about this incident, and yet no answers have been made available. The Pumas County Sheriff's Office's website has been offline since this story came to light. As I do live in Las Vegas I would be willing to wager the attention being received is not of the celebratory, good feeling variety.
The apologetic nature of members of the media was also ever so resonating. Take the example from The Huffington Post where the headline read, "California Cops Are Pulling People Over For The Best Reason Ever." Beyond the Upworthy style headline, I cannot fathom a single 'good reason' to be pulled over by police. Individuals were unwittingly forced by the coercion of fear to perform for a camera. Fear and anxiety were used against them to illicit a reaction, which Huffington Post acknowledged by writing:
Using their law-appointed power, the cops pulled over a few unsuspecting citizens and then fired a few questions at them.
After the innocents appeared to be nice and terrified, the officers retreated to their cars to get them a special treat that's much, much better than a ticket.
How innocent sounding, no? Why would the public be terrified, except if they were afraid of the police? This advertisement was meant to perform two functions simultaneously. The first was to advertise the ice cream. The second was to attempt to repair the public image of law enforcement, which over recent years has seen a steady downward decline. More Americans than ever are fearful of law enforcement. More Americans than ever believe that law enforcement does not follow the laws that they are tasked to enforce, and for good reason.
Beyond these observations there are far more chilling implications to this leap into the quasi mini-fascistic future. Will detaining innocent citizens become standard practice for law enforcement across the country if it benefits a corporate advertising campaign? What about stopping innocent citizens to tell them about a new toothpaste? Perhaps there is a great deal on car insurance, or the ability to receive a cheaper loan from a multi-billion dollar corporate banking entity? Surely law enforcement would be performing their civic duty by using their power to attempt to save citizens a few dollars, no? Well why not? They were just having a little fun terrorizing citizens, while boosting the visibility a commercial ice cream brand.
I had a moment of pause before sitting to write this piece, as it places me in a familiar position of being accused of vilifying law enforcement. This will lead others to question why I "hate" law enforcement, but I have no hate for law enforcement. I simply do not see a single need to allow law enforcement to abuse their power. Across the Internet there have been thousands of comments that say things like:
"It is just a joke. People need to lighten up."
"Wow. Really? All of you seem to be pissed by this? ./smh You dont know what its like to live one day as an officer and for them to actually bring smiles to faces instead of always being flipped off or worse is something I bet they are enjoying. Don't grip and moan really? Unbelievable."
To individuals who have taken this skewed line of logic my reply, simply, is it is not a private citizen's job to be a cheerleader for police. A private citizen should not be used as an unwitting implement. There are other avenues for community out-reach that do not include stopping citizens and disrupting their day, and likely violating their rights, all in the name of propagating a multi-national ice cream brand.
It is the duty of all citizens to speak out against this outrageous abuse of power, or before too long one can expect to be stopped to be served samples of the newest pink-slime hot dogs on toothpicks by friendly armed corporate servants. And one final thought; What would have happened if any of the citizens had refused the ice cream? An arrest for failing to comply, perhaps?
Let's all hold our breath and find out.
Thank you for reading!
Lou Colagiovanni is the National Crime & Courts journalist for Examiner.com. He is the editor of Ruthless-politics.com, and We survived Bush. You will survive Obama. He is also a political columnist and consultant. In his spare time Lou writes restaurant reviews in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada. His work has been published on thousands of websites across the Internet. Lou is regularly featured on television and radio. You may contact Lou at firstname.lastname@example.org.