Mere days after a Complete Colorado report suggesting that red-light cameras are designed to punish people turning right on red, the Denver Police Department has released "The Reason I Stopped You," a new video arguing that traffic tickets save lives; see it below. It's all part of a campaign to get people to think about police work in more positive terms.
The video shows an officer visiting an accident scene, where a bystander tells him that a pedestrian fatality had been caused by someone running a stop sign. Cut to another driver turning right at a stop sign without coming to a complete halt. When the officer pulls him over, the driver snaps, "Don't you have something better to do?" The expression on the officer's face provides his answer, after which a narrator offers the tag line, "We make a difference -- everyday."
"It's easy to get frustrated by police, because nobody likes getting a ticket," DPD spokesman Lieutenant Matt Murray says about the latest production. "But this video reminds you that a ticket can save a life -- and if we can alter these small behaviors that people may see as revenue-generating, we may be saving lives in the process."
The "We Make a Difference: Everyday" campaign is featured on the DPD's YouTube channel, dubbed The Blue and You and featuring the work of videographer Frank Hogan, a long-ago Westword staffer. Murray says the department received a private grant to produce the series of spots, which launched in December 2010 with "Apprehending John Doe." That clip and the two that followed overtly mimic the vintage police series Dragnet via the intro line "This is the city," supplemented by noirish background music and deadpan narration. "The Reason I Stopped You," the fourth installment, begins with "This is the city," too, but it's not quite as firmly yoked to the format.
Murray sees the videos as a way of countering media-fostered negative opinions about the department. "People see the few incidents that get all the attention, but the vast majority of what we do is to make a difference for people," he says. "We're not the thuggish, brutish department we're depicted to be, and the videos are a way of showing that.
"We're not trying to distract attention from the errors we make," he stresses. "We recognize and acknowledge those. But we're trying to remind the public that 94.4 percent of Denver Police Department officers had no complaints in 2010 -- zero. And almost half a million citizen contacts last year resulted in only 600 complaints, just 200 of which alleged force: a minuscule percentage. So we're just looking for balance and perspective."
Most of the actors in the videos are police officers who volunteer their services -- but they may wind up on the big screen anyhow. "This isn't totally solid yet, but Regal Cinemas is talking to us about including them in their trailers," Murray says.
In the meantime, the DPD is disseminating the clips via Twitter and YouTube, and Murray says the feedback has been positive "both internally and externally. Cops like it, because they feel like someone's finally telling our side of the story."
Check out the four "We Make a Difference: Everyday" videos below.
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