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by Peter Moskos

November 29, 2012

Cop Does Good, paper reports

An all too rare reporting of a cop doing a good deed.

Of course the cynic in me worries that he will get in trouble for 1) being off post, 2) shopping while on duty, and 3) accepting a police discount. That's they way cops think because that's the way the departments can f*ck you, when they want to. Only the good press might save him.

Why do we let police work in a system where they can get in trouble for buying shoes for a barefoot homeless guy?

[Update: The homeless guy was found barefoot again by the New York Times. He said the shoes were in a safe place because they were worth a lot of money.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,
Long time, no chat. Thanks for highlighting this story.

People are justifiably cynical about the NYPD and policing in general. But we should never forget that individual officers always have the ability to think for themselves. They do not have to be faceless members of a monolithic "brotherhood." This officer deserves credit for stepping outside his institutional role to be a decent, caring human being.

Actions like this remind me of the motivations I had when I was still considering law enforcement careers (I have switched to EMS and I am a newly licensed EMT). They also remind me of the way my father approached the job, in spite of his gruffness. I thought that one of my major purposes as a police officer would be to aid and advocate for those who are particularly vulnerable or in a tough spot in their lives. I think of homeless people like the man in the story, abused children or elderly people, crime victims, at risk youth, etc.

Sadly, I have come to the conclusion that many in law enforcement reject this role. Helping out a homeless guy would not be considered "real police work" to many in the field, I'm afraid. Better to spend patrol time keeping black "corner boys" in line, moving street people along to placate business owners and writing chicken shit tickets to generate state revenue so we can keep the machine running.

The "war on drugs" mentality and the post 9-11 "everyone's a suspect" mentality have done terrible damage to a field that has always been "on the fence," so to speak. In a better society, this man's good deed wouldn't be considered an unusual occurrence. And perhaps there is more of this occurring than we know. But the image of the police as aloof foot soldiers forcing the will of the state (and the economic interests that control it) down our throats will not be erased over night.

In spite of my reservations about policing, I hope for much more of this in the near future. But this does not mean that every patrol officer out there should feel obligated to buy boots or food or whatever for people. If more officers would simply honor their oath, take civil liberties seriously and challenge the official dogma of their field, that would be much appreciated as well.

Dave in IL