This morning my boss sent me this video. Please watch it, it is the basis for this whole post.
Okay, for those of you still did not watch it, here is the gist of it: The Lee County Sheriff’s Office in Opelika, Alabama, lured people who had warrants out for their arrest for failing to pay child support to a meeting place where they thought they were getting free Alabama-Auburn football tickets. They received what seemed like an official letter explaining that they had won some type of ticket promotion giveaway. In order to claim their tickets, they had to show up in person with photo I.D. After they entered the meeting place they were showered with attention and fanfare before walking into another room where they were arrested.
If you went to the link and took some time to read the guy’s write up who was sharing the video (Matt Hinton), he kind of lumped this operation in with the operations that are run on “COPS” and “To Catch a Predator”. Let me dispel any association between what happened in Alabama and the two other programs. COPS and TCAP work with sting operations, not ruses. A sting operation is when law enforcement busts people in the middle of committing a crime. A ruse is just a trick that is played on people to bring them to justice. I really don’t even see any similarities between COPS and TCAP. COPS is very raw and the actual police officers are the stars of the show. It is very well done and one of my favorite programs of all time. A blog on COPS will be coming. TCAP is much less about law enforcement and much more about what funny one liner Chris Hanson can think up when the next pervert walks through the door.
Let’s get back to the Alabama ruse though. I do support the general idea of luring these type of people to a meeting place with the premise that they will be receiving tickets to probably the biggest event in the state of Alabama. It is a very crafty way to apprehend some of these slimy people who otherwise would roam free. I imagine the Lee Sherriff’s Office saves a lot of time having these people come to them as opposed to their officers seeking them out. In the video it said they arrested nearly a dozen people in one day…not bad.
What I do not support are the lengths that the police went to in order to make the arrests. Upon entering the meeting place these people were already filled with excitement. Once they walk in the room they are greeted with a hero’s welcome. A couple local news crews shove microphones in their faces. About two dozen other people (law enforcement officers dressed in Auburn/Alabama clothing…maybe a little overkill) clap their hands and yell their congratulations at the suspect while taking pictures with their phones. Balloons line the pathway they walk down. Loud pump up music fills the room. At this point, I would speculate that this experience might be one of the best that some of these people have ever had in their lives. They are then ushered into a room where still ripe with joy they are told that not only are they under arrest, but there are no tickets (you will have to ask them which outcome was worse).
I feel that the jolt of one emotion to a total opposite emotion these people experienced was unnecessary and not in line with how the American justice system should treat offenders, especially nonviolent offenders. I get the fact that it was important to have local news crews there to show citizens what can happen if they don’t pay child support but the local news crews should not have been in on the act. What should have happened with this whole ruse was that immediately upon entering the meeting place and showing their I.D., the people should have been arrested. At that time the news crews could reveal themselves. The whole drawn out process of being made to feel like a superstar was uncalled for, misleading, and a waste of time. It was also humiliating and especially cruel to the people who were being arrested.
I put law enforcement on the same level as teachers. Two professions who I have the utmost respect for and who I feel should be paid way more. However, just like in any profession, mistakes are sometimes made. Stay classy, Lee County Sheriff’s Department. Don’t Blink.