In York, S.C. recently a man was stopped in a store for shoplifting a pair of shoes. The reason he stole them was because he was in desperate need of them after being released from jail with nothing but a pair of flip flops on his feet. The man was in a tough spot that was getting tougher.
After spending six months in jail when the man was released he had pretty much nothing left except the flip flops he was wearing shorts and a sweatshirt. The man had no money and no family to pick him up.
He was walking to Clover, S.C. which is about 10 miles. The man had taken his flip flops off and placed them in the shoe box while taking the sneakers out and wore them. He was torn between wanting to pay for them yet not really being able to and his necessity won out.
Lt. Keith Wills was called and investigated the incident. He spoke with the man in-depth and realized what the situation was and understood it for it’s nature above the mere black and white of the situation.
The man told officers he was “having a conflict” about stealing the shoes as he walked toward the front of the store, Wills told the Heraldonline. “He’s technically already shoplifted,” he said, “but he’s stuck between leaving and getting in trouble and maybe deciding to take them back.”
The shoes were returned to the store according to the police report and the subject was issued an appearance ticket for the theft. However Lt Wills understood that the problem was not ended and that the subject was still in a predicament and that his new arrest would only further impair the man’s situation.
“The more I talked to him, the more I realized the man was just in a tough spot,” Wills said. “I called my wife and said, ‘Can you put one of your kits together?’”
Wills’ wife met him and the man with no shoes in the parking lot of the police department and gave the man a backpack that contained jeans, a pair of tennis shoes, a blanket and hygiene products.
“I think he just stood there for a minute like, he’s gonna lock me up for this,” Wills said. “I was gonna check with him to give him a ride to Clover. I went inside to do something and he was already gone, like a ghost.”
The Chief of Police Andy Robinson has been encouraging his officers to think in more ways than just arrest people and become more involved. He is encouraging a community policing aspect to law enforcement that is beginning to pay off.
“I like for them to come up with the ideas because they get more involved in things they suggest rather than just telling them to do X, Y or Z,” Robinson said. “I have told my officers that there is more to policing than making arrests and writing tickets.”
Recently an officer was caught on camera playing catch with a local youth as well in a parking lot. It also gathered a lot of attention. See that here as well.
York, S.C. Police Department is learning a balance of community policing now between service and safety for it’s officers which should always be paramount. Citizens will enjoy the pay off.