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We’ve all been there. You’re driving down the road, minding your business, when you notice the flashing lights in your rearview mirror. You pull over to let the police car pass…but then he pulls over behind you. Dread fills your belly.
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In Lowell, Michigan, the police department wanted to interact with citizens in an exciting, uplifting way. After pulling over drivers for minor infractions like a nonworking headlight or tinted windows that were too dark, the officer began asking questions…
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After requesting the license and registration, the officer started chatting up drivers. “So, did you get all your shopping done?” Or “What do your kids want for Christmas?” A hidden microphone and camera on the officer carried their responses.
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The Officer charged with this wonderful duty was Scot VanSolkema, who the following month would win Best In Rifle for the third time. He was on the force less than a year-and-a-half when he was approached with the gift idea. At first, he was skeptical of the logistics—but he liked the idea.[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Next Page” ]
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“The majority of the time that we have contact with people, it’s either on a traffic stop or at one of the lowest points of their life,” Detective Gordy Lauren said. This gave the officers an “opportunity to have very, very positive encounters that people would remember the rest of their lives.”
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Most drivers shared their lists. For others, Officer VanSolkema worked hard to extract the information. One woman said her five year-old son asked for unrealistic gifts…like an electric scooter. One man wanted an HDTV to replace his broken TV. Another said his kids badly wanted an Xbox.[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Next Page” ]
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Stationed in a store nearby, VanSolkema’s colleagues heard the responses and ran through aisles pulling miraculous presents from shelves. They drove them quickly but carefully through the falling snow to the location of the traffic stop.
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Rob Bliss created a viral Internet video. His work got the attention of the UP TV Network who contacted him about collaborating on their latest video about acts of kindness. Bliss pitched the idea of working with his hometown police department.[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Next Page” ]
9. The Deliveries
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Walking up to the driver’s window with the merchandise the driver mentioned mere minutes earlier, Officer VanSolkema asked innocently, “Is this what you meant?” When the driver answered in the amazed affirmative, the magic began.
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“Open up your trunk,” VanSolkema said to the mother of the five year-old. He was holding a trio of gift-wrapped Lego Friends under his arm and the “unattainable” electric scooter. “Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! No way! Can I hug you?”[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Next Page” ]
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“Xbox. That’s what your kids want? That’s the go-to present for your kids?” Officer VanSolkema asked a male driver. “Yes, but I told them they’re not going to have it.” Minutes later, sitting in his front seat, the man unwrapped an Xbox. “Are you serious?!”
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One woman, upon opening a remote-controlled car, looked at the officer with gratitude replacing disbelief from her eyes and said, “You just turned my bad day into a good one.” Another opened an iPad and said, “What? Are you joking?”[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Next Page” ]
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“In the 10-15 minute window of a traffic stop, an officer can find out if the person is having a good day, a bad day or a horrible day,” Police Chief, Steve Bukala, said. “Then we got this idea. What if we could change that person’s day in real time? What if we could change that person’s day right now?”
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Between $7,000 and $10,000 worth of gifts were purchased, paid by Up TV’s Uplift Someone campaign. Impatient people were allowed to leave before their gifts arrived. And drivers who broke the law did not get a gift. The officers didn’t want to reward bad behavior. But for the lucky 30, as detective Lauren said, they’ll remember it the rest of their lives. So will we.[Featured Image Credit: www.businessinsider.com] [/nextpage]