Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Welcome to Iowa! Step Out of the Car, Please

Of all the dumb ass ideas I've heard for boosting tourism, this one really takes the cake (via Volokh):

A tourism gimmick in the southeast Iowa town of Kalona is giving new meaning to the phrase three hots and a cot.

Last week the town's Chamber of Commerce and Washington County sheriff pulled over people with out-of-state license plates and offered them an all-expense paid visit -- including free meals and a night's lodging just as if they were really being arrested -- to the town of 2,300, about 20 miles southwest of Iowa City.
Thankfully, it appears that the cop got the "right" couple. If by that you mean a pair of people perhaps too flummoxed to tell a cop they didn't have "20 hours to spend with us here in Kalona." They spent the night (not in the jail), received some local goodies, and were on their way the next morning.

Which does not make it all right. Make no mistake, this bonehead move violated the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable seizures. To make a traffic stop, a cop must have at least reasonable suspicion that some suspicious is afoot. He can't just pick random folks out for a chat. Consider that failing to stop for officer who lights you up is a crime in and of itself.

Remarkably, this isn't the first time cops have stopped the innocent for a publicity stunt. In 2007, I blogged about cops near Sacramento pulling people over to reward them for "good driver" with gift cards from Starbucks. How anything like this passes muster with the city/police force's legal department is beyond me.

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