Anybody who has ever been pulled over or stopped by the police knows that sinking feeling in the pit of their stomachs.
However, police in Michigan have been trying to turn the dreaded traffic stop into something more positive in the run-up to Christmas by handing out presents.
The brainchild of American television channel UP, the network asked the police department in Lowell city to give the idea a go and then recorded it in a three-minute long video.
As part of the effort to brighten the days of drivers around Christmas, motorists pulled over for minor violations were quizzed by officers to see if they’d finished their Christmas shopping.
If the force’s officers realised the drivers were having a bad day or down on their luck, they decided to help out with the assistance of some of “Santa’s elves” and a nearby department store.
The helpers waited in the local shop for information over the radio about what was on each driver’s list, then found the item and quietly delivered it to the officer mid-conversation.
Rather than finding themselves on the receiving end of hefty tickets or fines, downcast drivers were instead presented with the gifts they wanted the most.
Steve Bakula, chief of police in Lowell, said: “We got this idea: what if we could change that person’s day in real time?”
“Most of the contact police officers have with the public is on a traffic stop, and you can find out a lot about that person in that 10-15 minute window: whether they’re having a good day, a bad day or a horrible day.”
However, despite the good intentions of the Lowell police department, some have accused the idea of being nothing more than a stunt that could be seen as making light of law-breaking.
Regardless, the department defended itself by saying: “While we don’t encourage minor traffic violations, it’s important for police departments to take the time to show their citizens just how much they care.”
While there’s no word of British police handing out presents, sharp-witted officers from Teesside’s Cleveland Police recently sent a festive warning using lyrics from Disney’s smash-hit Frozen.
The force sent a Twitter post out earlier this month as a warning to drivers who leave themselves vulnerable to frosting, where thieves steal unattended cars that are left running to defrost.
“When it’s FROZEN, thieves will get their HANS on cars left unattended with their engines running,” the Tweet read. “Don’t be the one to LET IT GO!”