Turkeys instead of tickets

Jacob Lane · Tuesday, December 12, 2017
When West Liberty community members got pulled over Monday, Dec. 11, they were expecting the worst. Instead, they were given the best.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” said West Liberty Sgt. Dave Lira. “Usually when I pull people over they’re expecting something negative.”

“They’re apprehensive at first,” he adds. “But then I tell them they’re the recipient of a free turkey from the police department and they’re very happy about it.”

Thanks to West Liberty Foods, the West Liberty police department handed out approximately 100 $15 vouchers to be used in the purchase of a turkey.

The police department, fully staffed, found just about any violation they could to pull over community members in order to surprise them with free food Monday morning.

Sgt. Lira flagged down a woman in front of the West Liberty Post Office for having an “obstruction” hanging from her review mirror.

Boy, was she surprised when, instead of a fine or a warning, she ended up driving away with money towards turkey in her name.

“We’re pulling people over for a reason,” said West Liberty Police Chief Kary Kinmonth about the event, coined “Turkeys instead of Tickets.”

It only lasted through the morning, but came as a complete surprise to West Liberty as many were headed to work or to lunch.

“The violations are real, it’s not random. If someone is going a mile or two over the speed limit we’re probably not going to mess with that on a normal day, but today we are,” he said.

The idea came to Chief Kinmonth several weeks ago. He contacted West Liberty Foods Plant Manager Tom Alberti about giving out turkeys.

Since West Liberty’s number one employer, West Liberty Foods, is most known for turkey…well, he thought maybe they’d like to get involved.

“I was thinking maybe five turkeys max, but Tom came back and said ‘We’re going to give you 100 turkey vouchers,’” said the chief.

So, the department gave out $1,500 in free turkey.

The coupons, which resembled tickets fom far away, could be used at any grocery store that accepts manufacturer coupons, including Jeff’s Market in West Liberty, HyVee, Fareway, and more.

Officers both on and off duty scoured the town from north to south. It was a holiday hunt, one in which the victims were the real winners.

“West Liberty Foods has been a really good working partner with us,” said Chief Kinmonth.

“What I like most is that my officers want to do this stuff,” he added. “They want to be involved, we have a good group of high character officers.”

West Liberty officers were also involved with “Shop with a Cop” on Wednesday, Dec. 6, just in time for Christmas.

They took 11 kids from the West Liberty Community School District on shopping sprees at Walmart in Muscatine, then held a pizza party at Pizza Ranch.

Every child was given $250 to spend at Walmart. The officers walked them around the store as they made their choices. Thing is, many kids didn’t go right for the toys.

Rather, many of the 8- to 14-year-olds bought shoes, pants and food. Some even bought toys for their siblings before they started in on themselves.

“These kids, they’ve never had anything, They were so frugal,” said Chief Kinmonth. “This was just the tip of the iceberg.”

“It puts you in a position where, if you didn’t realize how good you have it just spend a little time with someone less fortunate than you,” he added.

The plan is to expand Shop with a Cop more next year. They West Liberty Police Department will accept donations towards its programs that help the community.

The department would also like to do “Turkeys instead of tickets” again.

But don’t go out breaking any driving laws anytime soon, the next time they do it will also be a surprise.
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