Victorious Virality

Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Walter Scott were black Americans whose deaths led to extensive protests, massive news coverage and a colossal decline in the public’s faith in police officers.[1] Federal, state and local government policy is turning towards the idea that requiring body cameras on cops is the answer to restoring trust, but there is another option on the table that works well, going viral in a good way.

In August, a video from officers in Halifax, Virginia grew popular online. Instead of giving the black woman they pulled over a ticket, officers surprised her and the young man in the passenger’s seat with free ice cream cones. She laughed and had the officer and his partner “smiling and laughing for a good hour afterwards.[2]

Detroit Police officers joined their colleagues across the nation in the “Running Man Challenge”, a series of video featuring people dancing humorously that became the rage.[3] By acting silly and lowering the “Blue Wall” that too often separates officers from the public they serve, the department won some converts.

Canadian police occasionally give out “positive tickets” to young people they saw doing good things such as picking up litter and not jaywalking. Youth who are cited can even win prizes.[4]

On the other hand, some have written that incidents like this are fleeting at best and don’t help.

In response to the ice cream ticketing, the website Vox published a criticism speculating the woman’s smile was one of relief at “making it out alive” from an encounter with the police.[5]

In response to the “Running Man Challenge” videos a Twitter user said he’d like to see a “#EndPoliceBrutality” challenge instead.[6]

Bottom line is this, these sorts of public relations stunts won’t solve overnight all the problems police departments face in relating to and connecting with the public, but they are a hell of a good start. By being self-depreciating and willing to positively engage people in unexpected ways on a daily basis, officers are living up to the “serve” part of their obligations to society, and should be applauded more often for it.



[1] “In U.S., Confidence in Police Lowest in 22 Years” Visited Sept. 8, 2016

[2] “Viral Video Captures Woman’s Reaction to Getting Ice Cream Instead of Ticket During Virginia Traffic Stop” Visited Sept. 8, 2016

[3] “Detroit Police Department – Running Man Challenge” Visited Sept. 8, 2016


[4] “Canada: police force hands out ‘positive tickets’ ” Visited Sept. 8, 2016

[5] “Cops don’t need to hand out Ice Cream. They need to end racist policing practices.” Visited Sept. 8, 2016

[6] “Running Man: Can bad dancing help cops connect with community?” Visited Sept. 8, 2016

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