The Police Versus The Homeless Man

Denver is a great place to live. I’ve called this city in the middle of nowhere (no other major cities within 500 miles) home for about a decade now and love it here.

Unfortunately, the rest of the country is also waking up to the opportunities to be found in the wild west. The city still hosts its annual livestock stock show and rodeo events to great fanfare. Had no idea that alot of those rugged cowboys were repressed submissives… until I was contacted by a few. Montana and Wyoming does produce some very nice beefy stock. I guess not having alot of opportunities to explore does lead to some of most sincere, willing to please at all costs submissives I’ve ever come across. Yes, Denver has been very good to me.

I’m fortunate that alot of the racial issues affecting relations between the Black community and Police in other parts of the country are not really present here. Then again, the Black community here is actually small compared to other minorities like Latinos and Asians. Our problem is homelessness due to skyrocketing rent and a lack of affordable housing due to a rapidly growing population thanks to the legalization of Marijuana. We are seeing unprecedented growth in a very short period of time. However, most of those moving here are only coming because they can lay around and smoke weed all day (a guy who asked me for money was actually honest enough to tell me that). Sad and infuriating.

Most mornings, I pick up coffee and sometimes breakfast before work. I work really early so enjoy not seeing alot of people around or on the roads. One morning, as I was leaving Walgreens to head to work, I noticed that the police were sweeping through Denver’s famous 16th Street Mall for homeless people squatting in front of business entrances. When I said that Denver had a homeless problem, I didn’t allude to how serious. I even see physically challenged people in wheelchairs slumped over in door entrances. I know enough to keep my eyes open for anyone hiding in alleys. As much as you feel for those down on their luck… you can’t be stupid either. Some are people who were just released from prison or jail and have no where to go.

And, when you have no options or opportunities, you can grow desperate. And when you have nothing to lose… you get the point.

As I was walking down 16th Street Mall approaching an intersection, concentrating on my surroundings, two cop cars suddenly drove up and stopped on each side of me. at the corner, with lights flashing. I stopped walking. All I could think of was “Damn, they are going to kill me”. I took a deep breath and ran through the scenario of my demise. But instead of hearing “put your hands up” and then feeling a bullet fatally wounding me, the officer ran right past me to tackle a white homeless man to the ground. He was just a couple of feet away from me. I didn’t even notice him.

What’s even more impressive was that the cops did.

I asked what is happening and one of the officers told me that the man had apparently accosted a female jogger an hour ago and had been looking for him based on description (he was white and wearing a bright orange jumpsuit). I was actually surprised they even told me that. But then again, this all went down right in front of me. I asked if I was free to go and the officer looked at me said, “Of course. You didn’t do anything wrong, Sir.” and turned his attention back to the scene.

As I continued walking across the intersection, I looked back and made eye contact with the homeless man they had on the ground in handcuffs. He looked really scared like he didn’t know what was going on. I wanted to show sympathy but then I now knew he was a suspect in a possible attempted assault case. But what if the cop lied to use that as an excuse to sweep him off the street?

Oh well, it’s not my problem.  Then I stopped myself.

Of course, its my problem.

He’s a human being. Just because he’s white does not mean I stop caring. Especially when the Black Lives Matter movement is literally asking the same thing of all people. To care about what happens to us when subjected to intolerable police brutality and harassment. To do something. Anything. Except show apathy and acceptance of the status quo.

But, I didn’t have all of the facts to make the proper decision on what to do.

And, there you have it. The dilemma.

So when I got into the office, I looked up reports about homelessness in Denver and was astounded by the sheer number of articles about it. The homeless comprises of many different situations being faced by those affected. Some could not afford the almost S1500 hike in rental rates. Personally, I feel that is criminal behavior in itself. Some may have lost their jobs and are currently seeking work. Although unemployment is low here, people are still having a hard time knowing where to look for the positions that are open.  Or are not skilled enough to qualify for them.

Whenever I am approached now by a homeless person I do the following things:

  • Say hello and smile. Everyone deserves to feel like they matter.
  • Ask if they are receiving unemployment benefits.  If not, tell them where to go to get those benefits.
  • Become familiar with all city, state and federal human service resources.  Tell them about the various Shelters and Food Banks across the city… and locations.
  • Buy them a small meal,  if I have the time and they seem like they are in desperate need of one… trust me, you can tell. Hunger has a specific look.  I carry Nutri-Grain bars with me for snacking and give those out alot.
  • Most importantly, ask them what they have been doing since they became homeless. Everyone must be held accountable for their own decisions, actions and predicament.

You can’t expect people to show sympathy and help if you are not doing anything to help yourself.

Remember that person who said he had only come to Colorado to smoke weed all day? No, plans to look for work. Just live off free services and other people.

Yeah, that guy… I would NEVER help.

THAT guy deserves everything that happens to him.

He is homeless by choice. That is the difference.

Just like the unarmed men who were victims of deadly force by police officers.

If you carry a gun and you intend to use it for illegal purposes, then you suffer the consequences. Live by the sword… die by the sword.

If you are not carrying a weapon and posed no immediate deadly threat, then you should have a right to your day in court. Humanely restrained until that day comes.

That’s what the Black Lives Movement is about. No one of any color should have their lives stolen just because of the color of their skin and the perception that comes along with that. By accident or otherwise.

Police are trained to serve and protect the public. Even the criminals they pursue. They should have proper deescalation skills on hand for situations that call for them. Shooting off a firearm should not be your first choice of action… unless faced with a suspect who is armed and dangerous with the intent to harm you.  I have known several former subs who are in law enforcement and are in that industry because they want to make a difference.  They want to serve and protect.  They want the respect of the communities they serve.  But they also know they have to earn it… every day.

Cops are trained to determine that intent.  So “running away” may be stupid but is NOT reasonable intent (people are not always rational when it comes to confronting police, their instinct is to get away).  Not fully complying with orders is NOT reasonable intent (this is where other tactics could be utilized in case the person is unable to comply for some unclear reason).  Fully complying with orders and laws requiring disclosure is definitely NOT reasonable intent. That’s criminal behavior and an abuse of authority at that point.

I fixed my problem of apathy towards homelessness by giving a damn and doing something about it. Something within my power to do.  Changing the way I react to the world around me.

That’s where universal change begins.