ORLANDO, Fla. – When Corporal Lee Sahs pulled over a young man for a broken brake light, the young man immediately got out of the car.
“Sir I don’t know you, you don’t know me, can you please just sit in the vehicle?” Sahs asked the man, as recorded on Sahs’ body camera.
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Sahs said it’s possible the young man had a prior interaction with police that didn’t go well.
“He was very confrontational at the time,” Sahs said.
So after a driver’s license database search came back clean, Sahs decided to give the man — not a ticket — but a $25 Advance Auto Parts gift card to fix the brake light.
The man excitedly accepted the gift card.
“No!” he said. “You’re gonna give me a gift card?!?”
Sahs said he hoped that interaction helped change the man’s perception of officers or traffic stops or both.
“If he did have a negative connotation, I hope it changed to positive. But he was very, very, very happy. I would hope he at least has a positive interaction that he could tell friends and family now and say hey you know what this actually turned out to be a good traffic stop.”
For months now, Orlando patrol officers have been giving out the gift cards at their discretion and when appropriate.
Another traffic stop recorded on police body camera showed an elderly woman driving a car with a window taped shut.
After running her driver’s license, the officer handed the woman a gift card.
“This way I don’t have to give you a ticket. I don’t want to give you a ticket; it’s too hard right now,” the officer told the woman.
One driver broke down in tears when she received a gift card.
Traffic Enforcement Supervisor Lt. Jerry Goglas coordinated the gift card give-away program after Chief Orlando Rolón learned about it from an agency in the Midwest.
“To give them a citation that cost $114 when they can easily spend $12 at an auto parts store to get the problem fixed, that means more to us then just giving a citation,” Goglas said.
Goglas worked out the partnership with Advance Auto Parts, which agreed to donate $5,000-worth of gift cards to OPD. All gift cards have serial numbers and are documented.
“The fact that these officers are reaching out to people and saying here you go, on behalf of this organization and us, you can now go get this fixed, we’re giving you the funds to get it done, it’s a win-win,” Rolón said.
Sahs said he sometimes get emotional when he sees drivers getting emotional.
“I’ve had individuals crying, just (in) disbelief,” Sahs said. “And hopefully the word gets out and they say you know what, I got stopped by an officer, and it turned out pretty good. And this is what I got. So it doesn’t always have to turn negative or turn bad.”
Officers have already handed out more than 75% of the 200 gift cards but OPD said it will try to find a way to continue the gift card give-away.
Several other police departments across the country have seen OPD’s social media posts showing video of drivers’ reactions after receiving the gift cards and have asked OPD for advice on how to create the gift card give-away in their cities.