By Geoffrey Vendeville
There is a secret Santa in the Montreal police’s midst.
Over the last two days, an anonymous police officer pulled over drivers, not to slap them with a ticket but to give them a $50 or $100 bill.
The policeman received $5,000 from a wealthy friend and was instructed to hand out the money to people in need.
The secret benefactor was inspired by a similar initiative by the Kansas City police, who gave away $100,000 instead of traffic tickets.
“In the beginning, I did it a little like the way they did,” the Montreal police officer told 98.5 FM. “I looked for vehicles that were beaten up, those that had burnt-out lights, older cars. I’d intercept them for an infraction and then give them a present instead of a ticket.”
One of the first drivers he stopped was an anglophone woman driving a car with a broken tail light and a baby girl in the back seat, the officer said. He pulled her over and followed normal procedure, checking her licence and registration before giving her a warning — and a hundred bucks.
“Just with the warning, she was very, very, very happy. When she saw the $100, it was almost hysteria. Let’s just say I saw a lot of tears in those couple of days,” he said.
After finding it too hard to determine who was really in need only by the look of their car, the officer distributed the rest of the money to homeless people or shelters, Montreal police spokesperson Commander Ian Lafrenière said.
“Santa cop” doesn’t want to reveal his identity because he has been criticized for not giving the money directly to certain charities, he explained.
The officer handed out the last of his bills on Thursday. “He told me: ‘I wish I had $100,000, there are so many people in need,” Lafrenière said.
Sergeant Detective Yves Francoeur, the president of the Police Brotherhood, said he called the Montreal police on Friday to ensure the secret Santa wouldn’t be punished for not following his regular duties.
“I think it’s much better to pull someone over to give them a $100 bill rather than a ticket to respect our quotas,” he said.