A few weeks back, I walked by a woman sitting on the street outside of 7-Eleven, she was shaking coins in a cup and wishing people a happy Sunday. A cop walked out of the store and asked her what she was doing; he said he’d gotten a complaint about her harassing people. (I didn’t believe him.) I stopped, stood at a distance and watched. It didn’t escalate, so I didn’t start recording. She wished the cop a good day, and he walked over to his car.
He saw me looking and asked, “Can I help you with something?” I said no. He said, “I thought you stopped because you needed some help.” (I didn’t believe him.)
When his partner walked out of the store a few moments later, he wished the woman a good day and moved on—which made it pretty obvious that there had indeed been no complaint.
As the men drove away, the first cop and I made eye contact until they were out of sight.
I checked in with the woman, and shared my spare change. We talked about how scary it can be to talk with a cop in uniform. We wished each other a happy Sunday. As I walked away, I thought about the fact that he probably had a gun.
Treat people on the streets with humanity. I generally say hello and either share spare change that I have or say, “Sorry, I don’t have anything to spare today.” A friend once shared with me that they give a dollar to the first person to ask them for spare change on any given day, I think that’s a pretty good rule of thumb. Find what works for you, and of course let’s remember that some of us have to be mindful of street harassment as we go about our day.
Nobody should be too poor to live. Remember their humanity. Call 411 instead of the cops if someone is unable to be respectful in public places because of their mental health.
And, if you are safe to do so, watch cops.