The Pensacola Police Department has a penchant for picking on the less fortunate. Whether it’s blanket stealing or good ole fashioned tarp slashing, both the city and the county police forces like to do a little harassment from time to time.
Last Friday was no exception.
On June 13th after the weekly Food Not Bombs food sharing, two officers approached a homeless man named Kevin who was sitting on a park bench drinking a beer. Mike Kimberl of Sean’s Outpost was on the scene when the officers accosted Kevin. There were three officers and two cars and the officers were familiar with Kevin.
The officers issued Kevin a ticket totaling $400.00 for having an open container. If Kevin did not pay the ticket, he would be facing jail time.
Mike recalls asking the officers if they knew that Kevin couldn’t pay the ticket, and they responded yes. They would also issue a warrant for when that time came.
“Why not take him to jail now?” Mike asked the officers.
Even though the officers acknowledged they knew Kevin couldn’t pay, they responded that they were, “Just following orders.” Yes, that is a direct quote.
Here is a the summary of the ticket issued to Kevin by Officer M. Harmon:
If there’s silver lining to this story it’s that as the officers were leaving, Kevin told them that he had another unopened beer which by law they can’t take away. He told them, “Get on.” and that he would drink it when they left. Kevin then proceeded to drink the beer while Mike offered to say it was him and take the fine if they came back. There are also no plans to pay the exorbitant fine.
Every weekend, numerous people walk around with open containers downtown that are left alone by the city police, and Kevin mentioned this has happened before. Allegedly, every few months the officers will come by to harass him and write him a ticket he can’t pay. Then a couple weeks later they take him and throw him in jail for awhile. Not only is this method ineffective for discouraging Kevin from drinking, but it is costly for the taxpayers.
In the proposed 2015 budget for the City of Pensacola, around 20% of funds are dedicated to public safety. There is a cost for issuing the ticket, processing it, and for arresting Kevin. The police arresting a nonviolent man for doing what other citizens do with impunity is shameful for a city in such economic trouble. How many innocent people need to be thrown in jail at the expense of others?
Original content by Meghan, copyleft, tips welcome