If it walks like a duck…

…it might be cops running a traffic ticket trap. This past Halloween, an undercover officer in Fort Lee, New Jersey, dressed up in a duck costume for work. From the article:

Last week, an undercover officer was dressed in a giant Donald Duck costume and paced back and forth on the sidewalk and street on a busy road.

Officers would then pull over drivers who failed to yield for the duck, and hit them with $230 traffic tickets. Police issued a whopping 130 tickets that day for a total take of $29,900.00.

Note the numbers. Even if well over half of those motorists challenge the tickets, that’s still a take well into five figures.

I am quite alarmed by the way the agency did this. It would be one thing if there was a full-scale public awareness campaign, either in the weeks leading up to Halloween or at some other time in the year (say, as summer vacation for school-age children approaches in late April and May) and then the cops started writing tickets. The duck costume could well be considered a distraction in and of itself given the hour of the day; this appeared to have taken place during the daylight hours, well before most kids would be out for trick-or-treating. Also, stated later in the article:

However, video footage of the operation shows that the officer dressed in the duck suit was intentionally confusing motorists, walking back and forth between the street and the sidewalk, and making confusing hand gestures.

At the very least, this toes right up to the dividing line of entrapment. In all likelihood, it goes way over it.

I have not seen a followup story to this stating anything along the lines that Fort Lee cancelled the tickets or refunded any fines paid by drivers. In the words of another famous cartoon duck, this is just despicable.

The new hugging trend

My news reading led me to two articles recently about the same topic: an article from Dayton Daily News and an article from the New York Times both reference to a huge culture shift taking place among teens about hugging and similar displays of affection. Namely, that the current generation does a lot more of it.

By itself, I don’t feel this is a bad thing at all. However, the reaction of school administrators is what has me baffled. Quoting the first article:

Attorneys are standing by to fight for the constitutional rights of students who might feel pressured by their peers into hugging. The day after the Times story was published, a legal Web site in Michigan warned that parents “should be alert to the potential downsides” of hugging.

I’d like to know what these potential downsides are.

Some [schools] have instituted a “three-second rule” to limit the length of a hug. A few years ago, in Bend, Ore, a middle school girl received detention for illegal hugging.

“Touching and physical contact is very dangerous territory,” notes the principal of a high school in New Jersey, where student — and, presumably, faculty — hugging was banned two years ago. “It was needless hugging — they are in the hallways before they go to class. It wasn’t a greeting. It was happening all day.”

I’ve got news for this school principal in New Jersey: daily life is dangerous territory. I have to laugh when I read this; it wasn’t all that long ago that there was a definite spike in the number of school shootings compared to years past. Heck, even back in the early 1990s (when I was in high school) I do remember being checked for weapons with a handheld metal detector on the way into a school dance. The Columbine tragedy didn’t happen until years later. That is far more deserving of the label “dangerous territory” than two or three teenagers maintaining a hug for longer than three seconds.

Some teachers get it, thankfully:

But Carrie Osbourne, a sixth-grade teacher at Claire Lilienthal Alternative School, said hugging was a powerful and positive sign that children are inclined to nurture one another, breaking down barriers. “And it gets to that core that every person wants to feel cared for, regardless of your age or how cool you are or how cool you think you are,” she said.

My take on it: We need more teachers like Carrie Osbourne in this world. Unless and until someone is really being coerced or shamed into hugging or being hugged against their will, really, I think we should let the kids be kids. Maybe that’s what it takes for this generation to turn out better than the ones before it.