Police Save Baby Ducks. Often.
January 31, 2023 9:44 PM   Subscribe

What’s incredible is not just that so many baby ducks keep wandering into storm drains, but also that there are so often police officers nearby to save them, and that word of these rescues keeps finding its way to a local news reporter. It’s quite the fortuitous string of coincidences.

In the UK, you’d naturally expect the Old Bill to look out for the younger ones.
posted by zamboni at 9:56 PM on January 31 [7 favorites]

[edited once I realized this post was media commentary on pro-cop puff pieces, and not itself a pro-cop puff piece. but I will complain that it's hard to grok this from clicking the first few links of the post]

So do firefighters, road crews, and groundskeepers.
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:07 PM on January 31 [9 favorites]

Look, I like ducks a lot, but I'd be okay with Police saving fewer ducks if it meant they stopped shooting innocent Black people who were walking down the street.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 10:14 PM on January 31 [36 favorites]

Yeah I snorted "hell no" for the copaganda but then recognized the name Radley Balko from Twitter and was like wait a second, this isn't pro police and actually clicked through.

staggernation, maybe worth asking the mods to give a little more context in the post?

The original tweet from John Hamasaki: "Watch for "cops save baby ducks" stories in the next few months. Media collaborates with police to produce these puff pieces after every police brutality incident."
posted by spamandkimchi at 10:30 PM on January 31 [21 favorites]

Cut to police officer putting ducklings down a drain
posted by Going To Maine at 11:00 PM on January 31 [20 favorites]

My township posted one. I didn't make the connection until I saw the compilation.
posted by constraint at 12:57 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]

Here's a German Satire piece about the Duckcop propaganda from 2003 in Titanic magazin (kind of like Onion). No English version available, sorry about that.
Entensieg in weite Ferne gerückt

They used to address this in their 'letters to the readers' columns long before that, I remember. But they changed to a 4 pages longform article format when they got their research on and realized just how much duck rescue porn there was.
posted by Ashenmote at 2:41 AM on February 1 [6 favorites]

Maybe I should add that Entensieg is a wordplay on Endsieg, the 'ultimate victory' from old Nazi propaganda.

I'm not saying it was a very good pun.
posted by Ashenmote at 2:46 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]

The thing about TikTok being able to push videos a la the enshittification post ... and reddit being able to push content a la gold awards ... is that anything is able to get traction in the headspace of people online as long as a few people with time and money want them to get traction.

So things like someone using their social media to help people get eye surgery in the USA becomes a social fight.

And "Three Memphis Fire Department firefighters fired in connection to Tyre Nichols’ death" is not being shown but baby ducks is being shown.

The editors of our content are now anonymous, and their motivations are no longer printed under the masthead.

From my view under this rock it is that social media is a new infinity front in a digital Somme.
posted by NoThisIsPatrick at 2:53 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]

It's really telling that cops have all this free time and therefor budget to rescue ducks instead of just calling a sewer crew. Especially considering I never see them taking proper confined space precautions.

Media collaborates with police to produce these puff pieces after every police brutality incident."

That's like very week hence the constant trickle of these stories.
posted by Mitheral at 4:54 AM on February 1 [3 favorites]

Don't forget its cousins, the Cop Overdoses From Mere Contact With Fentanyl story (2 minute video with a doctor saying that's impossible and charitably saying the officer's collapse was from "stress" while the journalist credulously repeats the police's lies) and the Cop Gives Homeless Person Boots story.

Here's the story of a NYC cop giving a homeless man a pair of boots.

And here's the story of a different cop in Colorado giving another homeless person boots.

And another one from account viralhog where the video taker laughingly jokes "you're going to go viral!" (I'm pretty sure she meant "we're".)

And another cop in Indiana.

And another cop in Cleveland.

This Niles, IL cop gives a homeless person the shoes off his own feet!

And this Atlanta cop. (Video is cued to the part in the unedited interview where the interviewer talks about showing the human side of cops and why this story is so important.)

And this North Bend, Oregon cop. (The department must have figured it'd be a good story after the fact, because the footage is from the station security camera instead of a passerby's phone.)

And this Los Luna's, NM cop. (The weird thing about the phrasing in this story makes me think the store gave the cop the shoes for free to give to the homeless person.)

And this Buffalo, NY cop.

Looks like even content farms are trying to get in on the feel good clicks. This story is laughably fake, complete with stock photo clips, serene background music, and saccharine story details.

Cops just love giving homeless people boots! On camera! Which the media loves to run for a feel good story!

(Needless to say, this conflicts with my personal experience when it comes to the police and the homeless, but those stories are long, repetitive, and would require a content warperson, though the framing implies the cop paid for them
posted by AlSweigart at 6:14 AM on February 1 [9 favorites]

These day Mr. Mallard is stuck in jail for a couple weeks because he can't afford bail after being arrested for larceny, loitering, trespassing, and vagrancy, and then Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack are distributed to various underfunded zoos after Officer Michael arrests Mrs. Mallard for duckling endangerment.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:38 AM on February 1 [8 favorites]

One time I was driving down the highway in the left lane and passed a duck flattened in the road. Then I saw a hawk hovering up above. Then I passed about 15 ducklings trapped against the barrier in the middle of the road. Took me a minute to process what was happening before deciding to do something about it. I had to get off the highway, turn around, pass the ducks again going the other way, and turn around again. By the time I swung by the second time the hawk was gone and there was only one duckling remaining. I pulled over into the breakdown lane in the middle of the highway, and it took me a few minutes to scoop the last little duck up into my hands. As I was standing up I see that a state trooper has pulled over and is wondering what I am doing. I simply held up the duck by way of explanation. He seemed mad at me -- I think he thought I was about to run across 3 lanes of highway traffic to put the duck down in the grass, and was telling me I couldn't do that. We agreed that I would put the duck in my car, and he blocked traffic so I could reenter the highway safely.

So now I'm driving down the highway with a duck swaddled in some clothes in the passenger seat, trying to convince my wife that I am not joking and am, in fact, about to show up for Thanksgiving dinner with a baby duck. Her mom is trying to figure out who to call. I am starting to imagine what life might be like as a duck owner and how maybe walking around the pond will have a new significance attached to it. Maybe an hour of driving later I see that the next rest stop has a farmers market, and decide to pull over and consult with the farmers.

The turnpike rest stop farmers market had only two stalls, one selling crafts and one selling honey. I explain the situation to the beekeepers, and of course they want to see the duck. They make a call while we all agree that it is very cute. Turns out their neighbor raises turkeys, and there are a bunch of new baby turkeys at the moment. They offer to take the duck. This seems like a better situation for young Turnpike the duck than I can provide, so I release the duck to the shoebox that the bee keepers have somehow produced. Weeks later I get a follow up email from them, telling me that Turnpike is doing great. Apparently the turkeys are kinda scared of them, as they are pretty fierce. I wonder if this is the quality that helped them survive the hawk, and am thankful that Turnpike made it through.

So in this case I saved the duck, and the cop was just needlessly snippy.
posted by cubby at 6:41 AM on February 1 [59 favorites]

I love the safety officers helping out people and animals in distress. Good public relations in my opinion. Stay strong officers.
posted by Czjewel at 7:08 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]

Do cops give homeless people boots before or after bulldozing their tents and personal belongings?
posted by emjaybee at 7:13 AM on February 1 [14 favorites]

Thinking of the time I found a cat stuck at the top of a utility pole adjacent to my back yard one morning during the dead of winter, with dangerously cold nighttime temperatures in the forecast. I called county animal control, the local fire department, the local police department, city hall, the electric company that owned the pole, and a couple of local animal rescue groups. I made calls for hours. Some of my neighbors also saw the cat and started making calls to various authorities for help too. NO ONE WOULD COME RESCUE THE CAT. After the cat had been trapped for most of the day, one of my neighbors finally ended up trying to help in an amateurish and risky way, threatening himself and the cat with electrocution and resulting in the cat making a 30 ft leap to the frozen ground and dashing off undoubtedly injured. I searched for the cat for days but never found it. I'm still upset about it.

Another time, I was in park and a park ranger quietly approached me. There was a friendly lost pitty running around the park with a collar but no ID. It was obvious from the dog's condition that she had recently had puppies and was still nursing. The park ranger asked me if I would consider taking the dog home with me because if she turned the dog over to the local police, which was protocol, she said, she feared they would just have the dog euthanized. So I did. Eventually a shelter helped me reunite the dog with her family and her puppies.

Given personal experience, on top of what I've heard from other people, I'm pretty sure cute animal rescues by police mostly only happen in fiction and/or during coapaganda drives.
posted by BlueJae at 7:14 AM on February 1 [12 favorites]

Once, like 35 years ago, I was biking and I saw one duckling running along a curb of a busy street. I rode on for a minute while thinking about it. When I decided that I had the means (an empty handle-bar bag) to transport it if necessary, I looped back, but I was, um, too late.

Also while biking, I once stopped traffic so Mother Goose and several tiny goslings could cross. How tiny? I had to boost one up onto the curb.

Waterfowl are good parents but haven't yet learned how to push the button and cross at crosswalks.

Some other anecdata - this Christmas I was paired with an off-duty cop to pick up donated food for a foodbank. No uniform, no phone video, you won't see this one on Youtube. He's been a volunteer there for years. Don't hate the player, hate the game.
posted by Artful Codger at 7:25 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]

Big-city cops do this too, BTW. A couple years back, Boston basically shut down a major traffic artery for half a day while they brought out a truck and a crew to remove the drain cover and fish the duckling out. My favorite part of this story (and totally ignoring the extreme copaganda throughout it) is the last three photos.

OK, guys, we've brought an entire police detail out to escort the ducks, gridlocked half the city to shut down the street, brought in the Water and Sewer Commission truck and a full crew to shovel (!) the duckling out of the storm drain, and safely reunited baby duck with its mom. What do we do now?

Um. I dunno, we didn't really think that part through. Let's just put all the ducks in this printer paper box, and bring 'em to the nearest pond ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

(Said pond is best known for its recent resurgence in raptor nesting. The hatchling bald eagles are cool to watch from the shore, but I'm concerned they might not have gotten the memo about preferential status for Jack Kack Lack and Mack)
posted by Mayor West at 7:27 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]

Cops just love giving homeless people boots!

... but not in the way you'd hope.
posted by mhoye at 7:31 AM on February 1 [8 favorites]

Oh! I forgot the best part of the story: while this overly-elaborate rescue operation was unfolding, word somehow spread to every local news station, so on top of the already-clusterfucked traffic, there were a dozen news vans parked around the site, and a news helicopter hovered overhead capturing footage for the better part of an hour. Boston's airspace is heavily restricted because of the proximity of the airport, so there must have been quite a few people involved in the decision to send out the news chopper to film the duckling rescue.
posted by Mayor West at 7:32 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]

Don't hate the player, hate the game.

C'mon. These "players" are not just choosing to playing this game but fighting every effort to change the rules so it's safer.
posted by mhoye at 7:33 AM on February 1 [3 favorites]

show up for Thanksgiving dinner with a baby duck

Well, that's not going to be enough for everyone, is it?
posted by Paul Slade at 7:36 AM on February 1 [10 favorites]

Waterfowl are good parents but haven't yet learned how to push the button and cross at crosswalks.

Boston is a city built on top of a swamp, so the wetlands just sort of run up against heavily built-up parts of town. Probably the biggest hub of water-fowl nesting in the city proper is near the Fenway, which is separated from a couple of college campuses by a large-ish road with pedestrian crosswalks every hundred yards or so.

This is all background for my point here, which is that the Canadian geese nesting in the Fenway have absolutely learned to cross at the crosswalk. My small children and I have sat, spellbound, near one of these crosswalks, watching birds congregate on one side of the street until they have a critical mass, and then all wandering into the crosswalk at once when there's a break in traffic. My oldest has taken to chastising ducks and turkeys when they jaywalk.
posted by Mayor West at 7:41 AM on February 1 [6 favorites]

Well, mhoye, a few things:
- police unions are kind of part of the game
- I'm in Canada, perhaps it's a bit different here
- policing is a hard and often thankless job. I imagine it's an even worse job in a country with more guns than citizens. It's not a job I'd take.

I don't think you're arguing that policing is problematic just because they only hire sh1tty people, are you?
posted by Artful Codger at 7:46 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]

policing is problematic just because they only hire sh1tty people

It can be problematic because it;
a) fosters a culture of "us" versus "them"
b) which evolves into a culuture of protect each other at all costs (union/gang mentality)
c) limited or no accountability for actions or mistakes (police unions)
d) failure to remove problematic officers
e) failure to ensure that officers fired for 'problems' cannot simply move to another location and continue policing
f) lack of de-escalation training
g) lack of education

sigh, I could go all the way down to "z" and back again.
posted by rozcakj at 8:11 AM on February 1 [5 favorites]

It is a bit different in Canada- especially western Canada where the primary policing for most jurisdictions is handled by the RCMP, a national police agency. All RCMP are trained at their facility in Regina, it’s selective and the standards are much higher than the US. Officers are regularly rotated to different garrisons, like a military tour. Municipalities can opt to marshal their own force, which in my experience are uniformly poorer.

The RCMP aren’t perfect, but are significantly better than the force ‘serving’ Saskatoon, where officer repeatedly abducted First Nation people to drop them off out in rural areas in extremely cold weather. Imagine an impromptu 10 km walk in temps well below -20 Celsius.

Every interaction I have had with the RCMP I, and everybody I was with, were treated fairly and professionally.
posted by zenon at 8:32 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]

I’m not saying that everyone gets equal treatment from the RCMP, just that relative to my experience in the US, the I always felt that the RCMP weren’t fucking with me, or trying to make a quota to pay the bills, or watch the cops cousin get a pass. Or just a club of sadist assholes who took the job to crack heads.
posted by zenon at 8:39 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]

When I read Make Way for Ducklings to my child I always edit out the bits about Michael being a policeman and just say he's a man. It makes it a little strange when he calls headquarters but I like the idea that maybe there's a headquarters for those who help out distressed duck families, much better than a headquarters for police, 1312.
posted by an octopus IRL at 8:52 AM on February 1 [10 favorites]

One time I was at a protest with someone who kept spraying painting "1213” everywhere and eventually I was like buddy...you're getting the numbers wrong
posted by an octopus IRL at 8:53 AM on February 1 [5 favorites]

My oldest has taken to chastising ducks and turkeys when they jaywalk.

Fowlwalk, surely.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:05 AM on February 1 [3 favorites]

Whenever someone someone sends one of these puff pieces to me or post them in a channel I'm in, I immediately say "Oh no, who did they shoot now? I'm afraid to google [the local area] police violence." I invite everyone to do the same.
posted by Garm at 9:21 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]

The job of policing is not the job the cops do, the job cops do is unmasking, a political power and violence against the poor. The difference of hiring shitty people or not, doesn’t matter because the entire chain of command, rules, and standard operating procedures are built to foster the kid of violence and cruelty we regularly see cops inflicting.

The system wins every time we demand to fire or prosecute murderous cops without also demanding that their supervisor and department chief also be fired for fostering the kind of training and organizational culture that allows this to happen on their watch.

This never happens, because again, the cops are primarily a political organization and not the public servants they pretend to be.
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:46 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]

I mean, almost every article on any kind of crime is just a paraphrase or straight verbatim reprint of some LEO's press release which will always make the cops look good and everyone else look bad

ducks/boots for the homeless/soup can drives/etc are just the tip of that iceberg of the police-politicking-media apparatus that dictates how our realities should be constructed
posted by paimapi at 9:55 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]

A) it doesn't matter what type of apples you hire. if the barrel is rotten they will all go bad.

posted by supermedusa at 10:24 AM on February 1 [7 favorites]

Whenever someone someone sends one of these puff pieces to me or post them in a channel I'm in, I immediately say "Oh no, who did they shoot now?

Uncomfortable chuckle. The comments on the story itself are insufferable "Oh so there's a CONSPIRACY?!" but it doesn't have to be. I'm sure police PIO flacks get a lot more calls after shootings, and cops being cops they'll play around with ways to avoid detailing their culpability. One might think that reporters are detoured away before they look for new angles on the story at hand. For instance, we never get stories about the role training plays in cop shootery, or how the hiring process isn't able to weed these people out. Still.
posted by rhizome at 12:49 PM on February 1

- policing is a hard and often thankless job.

Police are empowered to strip people of their rights and sometimes their lives.

In a just society that job should always be hard. It is always going to be thankless and it should involve a lot of checks and balances and paperwork to justify the actions taken as necessary in the pursuit of anything a moral person might call justice instead of "societal revenge". None of that excuses anything, particularly the systemic abuse of the powers they've been given, and if those abuses continue then those powers should be taken away instead of the abuses excused.
posted by mhoye at 1:25 PM on February 1 [5 favorites]

built to foster the kid of violence and cruelty

posted by Jon_Evil at 9:46 AM on February 1

posted by bendy at 3:00 PM on February 1

Duck tha Police!
posted by etherist at 5:48 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]

All Cops Are Quackers
posted by eustatic at 7:14 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]

They’re spread too thinly. This should be firmly within the responsibilities of animal control. Is there even a way to hold the media accountable for how they report on the police and crime?
posted by Selena777 at 11:09 PM on February 1

Also, Balko’s substack is pretty cool.
posted by Selena777 at 11:17 PM on February 1

Here's one about a swan instead of a duck. I wonder what triggered this copaganda. ‘Not your usual prisoner’: police pick up swan in Plymouth
posted by bleary at 5:38 AM on February 2

This piece touches on police training, or at least the "dominate-or-die" attitude that feeds into it. The Police Folklore that helped kill Tyre Nichols (New Yorker).
posted by Paul Slade at 6:17 AM on February 2 [2 favorites]

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