The Internet just shut down a North Carolina police department's public relations plan.
The Chapel Hill Police Department announced Monday that this month it would start "ticketing" law abiding citizens by giving them coupons to area restaurants and businesses for good behavior. Officers would, for example, hand out "good tickets" to pedestrians and bicyclists who use a crosswalk or a bike lane.
The plan aimed to both promote public safety on the roads and strengthen the relationship between Chapel Hill residents and the police force. But on Wednesday, the city mayor's office told The Huffington Post that the "good ticket" plan was canceled pending a new proposal, after The Daily Tar Heel published a story about the initiative that raised eyebrows.
Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt's aide, Jeff DeLuca, said that the public reaction to the article was overwhelmingly negative, but also misinformed. Indeed, commenters on the Tar Heel site and Reddit decried the program as an excuse for officers to make illegal traffic stops.
"No thanks," one commenter said. "Don't they need probable cause for a crime to pull someone over?"
But pulling citizens over was never the plan. On the contrary, DeLuca characterized the initiative as a fun one in which officers would walk around on specified dates and times to meet a few locals and hand out some coupons.
Still, the outcry was loud enough to cancel the program, for now. In a statement Wednesday afternoon, the police department wrote:
In response to publicity about a recent Chapel Hill Police Department plan to reward positive behaviors by pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, we have decided to postpone this portion of our work on the Watch for Me NC initiative.
The purpose of this program was to reward good behaviors on the part of community members. However, while we never intended to stop motorists as part of this program, the fact that this was reported as part of the program has resulted in significant feedback from many community members. These concerns have resulted in a decision to re-evaluate the program and determine the appropriate manner in which to proceed.
“I have decided to postpone the plan and possibly revisit the idea in the future,” Chief Chris Blue added.
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