The Canadian police officer who made headlines last week when he threatened to force DUI offenders to listen to Nickelback as punishment for their impaired driving has had a change of heart and apologized to the band. Constable Robb Hartlen went viral with a Facebook post (since deleted) in which he joked that the “Kensington Police Department Drinking and Driving Gift — Christmas Bonus Edition” included a free, mandatory spin of Nickelback’s 2001 Silver Side Up album as punishment.
Well, Hartlen wrote in a long FC apology, “What do you do when you use a joke to carry a message, but the message turns into the joke?” At the time of the original post, Hartlen said he thought it was a “great idea… [to] get the message out.” When the message went international, though, he worried that “somewhere in the noise, the message of Don’t Drink and Drive was overshadowed by negativity towards the band I said I would play if you did,” he wrote.
“At first I admit I was fine with the way I worded the post. I was sure a hugely successful band would be fine with a little good will shade thrown their way, after all it’s for a good cause. But the more successful the post became the less the Don’t Drink and Drive message was mentioned and the fact we love or love to hate Nickelback took centre stage. And that prompted me to think less about Nickelback as the ‘Entity’ and more about the 4 guys, 4 human beings from Alberta who were dragged into this international story. And the more I thought about that, the less funny the humor seemed.”
In other words, he felt bad for trolling the band and worried that people were not getting the whole “don’t drink and drive” message. “I was accused of making light of Drinking and Driving. I was stunned by that,” he wrote. “I, as a police officer, and as EVERY police officer before me, know too well the catastrophic devastation drinking behind the wheel can create. Police Officers, as well as my brother and sisters in the Fire and Paramedic world will attest to, having to attend the scenes of these events. The destruction to not only vehicles, but to families, bodies, entire lives, we see this destruction. We smell the pain mixed with booze covered in motor oil and blood. We take these images and sensations home with us. At no point will any of us make light of Drinking and Driving.”
He teaches kids about bullying, he said, and here he was being a bully, making the members of Nickelback “the global butt of a joke that they had not deserved. And for that I am sorry.” Hartlen personally apologized to Chad, Ryan, Mike and Daniel, as well as his fellow Canadians, noting that the band has stepped up numerous times for charitable causes, giving generously of their time and money.
“So instead of just walking away from my misstep, I have reached out to Nickelback. To Chad, Ryan, Mike and Daniel. I have reached out to their families and offered my apologies but I still have a strong belief in the original message of Not Drinking and Driving. And as we spoke I found out some wonderful news. They feel just as strong about it as I do. So we decided it was best to take down the original post.”
He promised a new anti-DUI campaign that will be inclusive and not snarky, coming soon. At press time the band had not yet responded. Click here to read the full post.