Behind the wheel? No more ice cream for you!

| Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Just about everyone at some point in their life has been pulled over by a police officer. And everyone knows that sick feeling you get when you see those red lights in the rear view.

But for two glorious July days in Kansas City, MO, the sight of red lights was just a little sweeter.

Starting on Monday, July 26, officers in the city’s North Patrol Division were stopping good drivers and giving them free ice cream certificates from two local companies, Bellefonte, which sells its wares in grocery stores, and Sheridan’s, which offers frozen custard (like homemade ice cream) in shops around the Kansas City area. Roughly 200 certificates were donated to the program.

Major John Armilio, commander of the North Patrol Division, said the idea was to promote better relations between officers and the public, and to give good drivers some positive reinforcement.

“The whole idea was a real positive interaction with people, and to promote safety,” Armilio said.

Officers involved did not run licenses or check insurance on the drivers. The only check they did was to run the license tags so they would know if any of the occupants of the car were potentially dangerous.

The program rewarded people who obeyed the speed limit, stopped at stop signs, used their seat belts, use child restraint seats correctly and engaged in other good behavior. Armilio said he hoped it would help people be less afraid of the police.

Unfortunately, a few very, very unhappy people have ruined a very sweet deal. After only a day and a half, the department received complaints.

“As with all good ideas, I had so many good, positive comments on it, but it only takes one or two, I guess, negative comments on it …,” he said.

One driver complained about the stop making her late for work. Others said the red lights made them “nervous,” Armilio said.

So Armilio pulled the coupons out of the patrol cars. But that doesn’t mean the end of the free ice cream.

Armilio instead has give the coupons to the two bicycle officers in his division, who patrol neighborhoods and shopping centers in the portion of Kansas City, MO, that lies north of the Missouri River.

“People will already be stopping, getting out of their cars and going into the stores,” he said. “They won’t have the red lights, obviously, since they’re on bicycle patrol. But they’ll still be in the neighborhoods, which is what I wanted, and they’ll still have the interaction with the police officers.”

And the free ice cream. Let’s not forget that.

Meanwhile, Armilio is spending a good chunk of his time, taking some good-natured ribbing and fielding calls about the program.

“I’ve been doing the same thing for two days or so – talking about ice cream,” he said. “I had some people in Independence who e-mailed me and said they were going to drive up north to get some ice cream.”

- by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor

Mark Reddig can be reached at