Fryeburg police hand out gifts instead of tickets


FRYEBURG — The man in the blue work coat looks utterly crestfallen.

His name is Joe Vaughn and he has been pulled over by police on a slushy street in Fryeburg. It is not looking good for Joe. He failed to completely stop at a sign, police say, and he does not have his car registration.

“You know you’ve got several hundred dollars worth of violations here,” the officer tells him.

Joe nods grimly, the holiday season ahead suddenly looking bleak.

And then, a Christmas miracle. Instead of a citation, the police officer hands the man an envelope containing his license and a gift certificate to a local restaurant.

“You got a meal on Fryeburg PD,” the officer says.

It takes a moment, but then Joe begins to understand what has just transpired. His face brightens. He smiles for the first time.

“Thank you,” Joe says. “Can I have a hug?”

Right there on that slushy Fryeburg street, Joe steps forward and embraces the police officer — who, it turns out, is actually Josh Potvin, the Fryeburg police chief.

All of this back road drama was captured Tuesday by Potvin’s body camera, which filmed his encounter with Joe.

“We wanted to do something during this holiday season to give back to our citizens,” Potvin said. “These traffic stops are for minor traffic violations and it’s at the officer’s discretion to give a gift card.”

Potvin, along with Sgt. Heidi Johnston, took to the streets Tuesday to stop suspected violators and then cut a few of them some slack.

“First reactions so far have been pretty emotional,” Potvin said. “Most drivers have either asked if they can have a hug or just say they just want to hug us and do it. This is what community policing is all about.”

The gift certificates were donated by local restaurants and other businesses that support the police. They hope that by handing out the gift cards randomly during stops, they will inspire goodwill instead of hostility.

According to Joe’s reaction, it has been at least a partial success.

“I am still speechless by the random act of kindness from the Fryeburg Police Department today,” Joe wrote on the Fryeburg police Facebook page.

“I appreciate all that you do to keep us safe. Thank you again, not only for the card, but also helping restore my faith in humanity.”

Joe Vaughan discovers he is getting a gift card rather than a ticket from Fryeburg police. (Fryeburg Police photo)

Joe Vaughan discovers he is getting a gift card rather than a ticket from Fryeburg police. (Fryeburg Police photo)