HOWELL — When Ptl. Brett Kyle pulled 10 people over on Christmas Day, some of them thought they were the targets of a practical joke. Some of them cried.

None of them got tickets.

Instead, Kyle said, each was given a $10 gift card to Wawa that he'd purchased while working overtime the night before.

"I'd sit on the side of the road. I'd obviously first find a violation in order to pull them over — just in case it turned into something else, to make sure it was a legitimate stop," he said. "I would explain to the person they were being stopped. I would ask if they knew I was stopping them, to which they said no. I would tell them they wouldn't be able to guess why."

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Kyle started his tradition a few years ago, handing out candy canes. He said it's not officially sanctioned by the department — he's not sure if his superiors knew what he was doing, but he didn't tell them. In the time since, he's seen a few captains cheer him on in Facebook group comments, Kyle said.

In the years he's been handing out Christmas treats, Kyle said, he hasn't had a stop escalate to the point where he felt he needed to issue a ticket or press charges.

His story was shared in the Howell Happenings private Facebook group, and a screenshot of it in the associated public Howell Happenings page. A resident wrote to say an officer had pulled over his sister.

"You guys are the real MVPs," wrote the resident, whose name was removed from the screenshot. "My wife and I are both healthcare workers, and get called heroes all the time since the pandemic. in reality police are the real heroes. They go out there every day to make sure we are safe and protected even tho they get hated on because they're doing their job."

The post continued: "To whoever that officer was, I salute you and all the other officers on the job."

Kyle told New Jersey 101.5 he stopped every 10th car, so long as he spotted at least a minor violation. He saw it as a bit of community outreach, though non-residents were stopped as well.

"I ran into some people that had a crying reaction, that recently lost their job, can't afford much ... on the way to spend the holiday with family," he said.

The youngest driver, a 24-year-old, started looking for hidden cameras, Kyle said.

"They thought we were just messing with them," he said.

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