CLEVELAND -- The FOX 8 I-TEAM found police are pulling over local drivers for minor traffic violations, but instead of a ticket, the drivers are often getting a holiday surprise.
Officers in Parma Heights, Brooklyn, Cleveland and Parma are handing out warnings after traffic stops along with bags of food to help prepare a holiday feast.
The I-TEAM followed Parma Heights officer Chuck Mehlman as he stopped a driver for rolling through a stop sign. But after the officer ran a check on driver Jeff Boss, he walked back to the vehicle with a bag of food.
He told the driver, "Keep that for yourself, your family, or if you know of someone else in need, feel free to pass that along. Have a good holiday. Drive safe.”
Boss told the I-TEAM, "This is great to get a warning. I was surprised. Very surprised."
This push started a couple years ago with former Brooklyn officer Rob Slattery. Officers hand out food, not tickets, in stops when they have a choice. They can give a warning or a ticket for cases such as rolling through a stop sign or driving with a tail light out. Now hundreds and hundreds of bags will change hands after traffic stops during the holiday season.
To be clear, not everyone stopped by police is getting a warning and a bag of food. If you have a warrant for your arrest, or no license, you won’t get a break for something like that. But again, drivers have been getting the surprise instead of tickets for minor traffic violations.
Police see it as enforcing the law and sharing spirit.
Officer Mehlman spoke about the traffic stop we watched. He said, “I think he did get the message to be safe.”
And that driver said he’d likely give away the food. Boss said, “I will probably donate to someone who needs it more than I do.”
Organizers say they’ve teamed up with Sav-A-Lot food stores to make this happen. And in fact, officers expect to hand out a total of 3,000-4000 bags of food this holiday season, although not all from traffic stops.