I missed this news report when it first came out last month but it's absolutely insane. Apparently, a wannabe cop allegedly called dozens of fast food restaurants over the last decade pretending to be a police officer. He would tell the store manager that a particular employee was stealing and instruct the manager to strip search the accused and do other just plain wrong acts. Amazingly, the managers obeyed "Officer Scott's" instructions. Their "obedience to authority" would certainly be of interest to controversial social psychologist Stanley Milgram who conducted similar experiments in the 1960s. From the Louisville Courier-Journal:
On May 29, 2002, a girl celebrating her 18th birthday -- in her first hour of her first day on the job at the McDonald's in Roosevelt, Iowa -- was forced to strip, jog naked and assume a series of embarrassing poses, all at the direction of a caller on the phone, according to court and news accounts.Link (Thanks, Eric Paulos!)
On Jan. 26, 2003, according a police report in Davenport, Iowa, an assistant manager at an Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar conducted a degrading 90-minute search of a waitress at the behest of a caller who said he was a regional manager -- even though the man had called collect, and despite the fact the assistant manager had read a company memo warning about hoax calls just a month earlier. He later told police he'd forgotten about the memo.
On June 3, 2003, according to a city police spokesman in Juneau, Alaska, a caller to a Taco Bell there said he was working with the company to investigate drug abuse at the store, and had a manager pick out a 14-year-old customer -- and then strip her and force her to perform lewd acts...
Across the United States, at least 13 people who executed strip-searches ordered by the caller were charged with crimes, and seven were convicted.
But most of the duped managers were treated as victims – just like the people they searched and humiliated. They all "fell under the spell of a voice on the telephone," wrote a judge in Zanesville, Ohio, in an order acquitting Scott Winsor, 35, who'd been charged with unlawfully restraining and imposing himself on two women who worked for him at a McDonald's.
Chicago lawyer Craig Annunziata, who has defended 30 franchises sued after hoaxes, said every manager he interviewed genuinely believed they were helping police.
"They weren't trying to get their own jollies," he said.
David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco.