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Michigan police surprise drivers by helping with holiday shopping

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AP Photo/Patrick Record/File

(Read caption) University of Michigan students lay on the ground during a protest of the killing of unarmed black men by white police, at the University of Michigan. In a publicity stunt, officers in Lowell try to show a different side of police handling by surprising drivers with holiday gifts instead of writing tickets.

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No matter how good or upstanding or honorable you may be, being pulled over by police can make anyone feel guilty. As your heart races, you wonder, "Did I come to a full stop at that traffic light?" "Do they know I've got an illegally copied Taylor Swift album on my iPhone?" "Has the IRS finally figured out that I owe internet tax?"

According to Mashable, cops in Lowell, Michigan decided to use drivers' tendency toward self-reproach to hand out a few surprises this holiday season. The results are kind of amazing.

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The gist of the police department's prank was fairly simple, but the execution was complicated. Officers pulled over unsuspecting motorists for minor infractions, like overly dark window tint. To keep up appearances, they gathered each person's license and registration, but their real goal was to talk to drivers and find out what items remained on their holiday shopping lists.

Each officer was wired with a microphone, and a production team listened to their conversations with drivers. As motorists began to share their holiday needs, the info was relayed to a team at a nearby store, which located the items, purchased them, and brought them to the officer. Then, instead of writing out a ticket, the officer surprised the driver with the gifts she'd just described. The drivers' reactions -- at least the ones included in the video  -- are priceless.

In fairness, we should mention that the project was a PR stunt funded by UP TV (a family-friendly cable offering formerly known as the Gospel Music Channel, according to Wikipedia). Which makes the whole thing feel a little less genuine than it should, but hey: it made quite a few drivers happy, and it generated huge publicity for UP, with more than 880,000 views of the above video in just two days. And though the clip doesn't do much to quell the national debate we're having about police brutality these days, it's a nice diversion for a few brief moments.