Say a police officer apprehends you as you're standing on a corner, and you have no idea why. "You've been caught," the cop mutters, reaching into his or her back pocket and pulling out a packet of paper. What's your immediate reaction: to cry injustice? Make a run for it? Frantically start Googling your rights on your smartphone?
And then, suppose the officer says, "… caught doing something right!" and hands you a gift card to go buy yourself a piping-hot pepperoni pizza. Are you on candid camera? Or could it really be that SCGAP (Some Cops Give Away Pizza)?
Did you help a little old lady cross a treacherous thoroughfare this morning? Perhaps you considered littering, but then walked the extra half-block to throw out your bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich wrapper in a proper trash receptacle? Walked your bike through the crosswalk instead of carelessly pedaling on it? Maybe, sweet denizen, you deserve a pizza.
Starting today, Denver police officers will be handing out 500 gift cards—each redeemable for $10 off a Papa John's pizza—as they patrol downtown by foot, bike, and Segway. Recipients will be selected for obeying the law (ostensibly when there is an opportunity not to) or for lending a helping hand to others.
In a YouTube video posted by the Denver Police, they describe the campaign thusly: "Who doesn't appreciate a pat on the back, now and then? In that spirit, the Denver Police Department is launching an initiative aimed at acknowledging people and rewarding them with pizza gift cards for their courteous actions, for helping others and for obeying the law."
Well, if a Segway cop stopping you to give you a pizza voucher won't offer a little good PR for the police station, who knows what will?
With all of the accusations they've received regarding unfair treatment of minorities over the past two years, American police departments may be looking to get in good with citizens via mozzarella karma.
New York police have been experimenting with a pilot program that encourages members of opposing gangs to come together and discuss nonviolent resolutions and "right-track" thinking over free pizza provided by local cops. And at Rikers Island, well-behaved inmates are also rewarded with pizza parties and movie nights.
Sounds like cops figure the best way to gain the people's trust is with melted cheese and a thin crust. Pepperoni just might be the official topping of positive reinforcement.