A few months back I mentioned that some of my fellow officers would get on me for having too much heart. That I was too kind for the line of work we were in. It seemed difficult for them to parse how someone might care so much for the plight of strangers who “put themselves in their own predicaments”.
Yeah, I didn’t know what the fuck they were talking about either. I thought that was the point of the fucking job.
Working for the state police, we would respond for incidents at state-run facilities. This included the state department of transportation yards. Most are located near the highways and had limited access points. A call for service to respond to an alarm sounding at one of these yards was put out by dispatch. Myself and another officer were close by and went en route with no lights or siren. Creeping, if you will.
Arriving on the scene, we saw no obvious signs of disturbance of the property at first. We got around to one of the smaller buildings and found a door that was slightly open. We proceeded inside to find an unhoused gentleman had made himself a spot to sleep just inside the doorway. To be clear, we did not unholster our weapons the entire time.
Joe (not his real name), was in the deepest sleep. It must have taken us a dozen “sir!” and nudges to rouse him awake. When he did wake, his eyes went wide and the first thing out of his mouth was:
“I’m in trouble ain’t I?”
The other officer and I both laughed. It wasn’t what he said, just how he said it that was funny.
We let him know that he was trespassing on state property and we would need to search and then remove him from there. He was very cooperative, saying that he just wanted a warm place since it was cold that night. The shelter he had tried to enter was full so he made a choice. I told him that we understood, but that he made the wrong choice with regards to the law.
We got his personal info and ran him through the system. I think you can guess where this is going…
He had a misdemeanor warrant for trespassing. It was two years old and for $200. It wasn’t a lot comparatively, but definitely too much for Joe to afford. Nonetheless, we hooked him up and got him in my car. The other officer went back in service.
Let me break for a moment to inform you that I am not a saint. Never have been nor claimed to be. What I do believe in is fairness, equality, kindness, and generosity. That is how I worked the job and how I have tried to live my life. Hence, the ribbing I would get from other officers. Okay, I think that’s enough, back to our program.
Joe and I start a conversation about where he had been and how he got out there. Joe had worked as a mechanic for several years back east. He lost the business, lost his wife to divorce, and just lost his way. He had several other issues, some mental, that hampered his ability to rejoin society and maintain a job.
There are some options for serving misdemeanor warrants at the jail. You can book the subject into the jail, where the issuing agency will either come pick them up or they can get bonded out before then. Another is for the arrestee to pay the fine at the window and be free right then and there.
I booked his ass in jail and went and lived my best life. I mean, that’s what my sergeant said I should have done.
What can I say? I liked Joe and he wasn’t difficult in any way. I took him to the bond window and paid it out of my own pocket. I can’t cure all the worlds ills, but I could take care of that one. He didn’t belong in jail, he needed a different kind of help.
I drove Joe to another shelter where I knew the staff. I got him in and to his own space. It’s the best I could do and not anywhere near enough. There are a lot of similar life stories out there and it’s hard to keep track. I didn’t follow up on Joe and haven’t seen him since. I hope he found the right help.
Okay, so I didn’t tell you about this one to get a pat on the back for doing the right thing for someone. [cliche alert!!!!] Knowing I did the right thing is its own reward. Cliched, but I feel it’s true. What I wanted to get across, and in light of when we are now, is that I would like it if kindness and generosity were our default settings.
I also didn’t want to give you yet another round of police-related bullshit this week.
McSquirrel! Yada, yada, yada.