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Police department's Facebook photo of panhandler's money sparks controversy

Published: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 @ 1:40 AM
By: Alex Thomas,

For as long as there have been panhandlers, there has been an argument about whether we should give them money. A front-page story in the Washington Post on Sunday chronicled the struggles of a young man who has to drive 30 miles to beg for money to support his ailing mother after he had been run out of his town.

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The Cheyenne Police Department in Wyoming is the latest to join this argument. On Sunday, police shared a picture on Facebook of money collected by a homeless man, writing, “We arrested a transient for public intoxication. ... We want to illustrate that there are better ways to help the transient population than to give them money for panhandling.” The post continued, “Rather than feeding someone’s alcohol addiction, you can donate directly to local charities.”

>> See the post here

The post has been shared more than 31,000 times and received at least 5,600 comments. A number of people were angered by the post, including one user who wrote, “I’m sure you guys are going to take every dollar he had, and not give it back to him. The way I see it, the people gave it to him. That’s his money.”

Another man wrote, “I will give my money to whoever I please. ... Because of this post, I’m going, right now, to each exit where they usually hang out and each one is getting $20.”

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There were comments supporting the department, such as, “Am I missing something? How are the Police bad guys all the sudden?? All they did was arrest a guy for public intoxication which is against the law!!”

The department responded on Facebook, saying:

"It is great to see that this topic is important to our community. It should since it is a community issue and not just a problem for the police to solve. This is why CPD launched Operation Change in March. Our officers always offer social services first; if they make an arrest for intoxication, we have addiction counselors contact the person while in jail to offer help. Several have taken us up on the offer and are currently in programs. We will never give up on our mission to help those in need. Get involved to help!"

>> See the post here

The department later posted some clarifications, including that the money was not seized from the panhandler but “inventoried along with his property” and “held for safekeeping until he is released.”

>> Read the post here