During a routine traffic stop, Westland Michigan Police Officer Joshua Scaglione noticed that the daughter of the man he had pulled over, a Mr. LaVonte Dell, was not sitting in a car seat.
Mr. Dell described what happened next in an interview with ABC News:
“The officer told me why he pulled me over, which I had predicted, and then he also noticed my 3-year-old in the back wasn’t in a car seat. He asked me to step out of my vehicle to talk to him, and I was just so scared thinking this couldn’t be good.”
While talking with both Josh and LaVonte on his show recently, TV personality Steve Harvey asked the officer, “Josh, why did you ask him to get out of the car?” Josh responded:
I asked him to get out of the car after I noticed his daughter wasn’t in a car seat. He told me with a lot of emotion basically, “I can’t afford it.” So I wanted to separate him from his family. I know financial issues can be degrading sometimes so I wanted to talk to him man-to-man. As I asked him, “Hey what’s going on? Why can’t you afford the car seat?” — because it is a priority to make our kids safe — he mentioned to me he was having some issues with garnishments and he needed to keep the lights on and feed his children over being able to afford this car seat; so I saw it as a perfect opportunity. I could relate to him since I was a teen Dad myself. I could relate and I wanted to be able to pay it forward to him.
Scaglione then asked Dell if he might be able to follow him to the local Wal-Mart; to which he agreed. At the store Lavonte recalls that there “wasn’t any awkward silence.” The two men spoke and “learned about each other,” as they walked back to the car seat section of the store. After a few minutes of browsing, Josh picked out a car seat that was, according to LaVonte, “perfect for my daughter,” took it up to the register and purchased it with his own money. Dell was shocked.
He gave me the car seat, we walked outside that’s when he told me, “If you ever need anything, you know where to find me.” He went his way, I walked back to my car. At that point I wanted to thank him again because I’m still in shock you know, because nothing like this had ever happened to me before. So I set the car-seat on my trunk, and when I turned around, he was already gone.
Josh told ABC that he believes giving out citations is not always the best thing to do; that being a part of the thin blue line means a duty to serve and protect your community. To officer Scaglione, doing the right thing vs. stringently enforcing the law is sometimes a matter of individual discretion.
“You know, a ticket doesn’t help all the time. I’ve been in a tough situation like this guy before. I figured it’d be better to help him out and just raise more awareness about car safety rather than give him a ticket that would dig him deeper in a hole and make things worse for him.”