You never know where the next stupid, vile and horrible example of police insanity will pop up next. But we have a winner de jour: Sarasota, Florida.
SARASOTA: A homeless man spent the night in jail Sunday after police arrested him for charging his cellphone in a public picnic shelter at Gillespie Park... Unable to come up with the $500 bail for the misdemeanor, Kersey had no choice but to stay in jail.Surely, though, this is intolerable -- the man was stealing electrons after all! Surely he should be put away for a few years -- preferably in a cell without an electric outlet. Nothing less could suffice for such a crime. But wait, what is this?
In his arrest report, Frangioni wrote that he told Kersey that the "theft of city utilities will not be tolerated during this bad economy."
For those able to afford an electric car, Sarasota offers free electrical power at vehicle charging stations throughout the city, including one at City Hall.A jail cell for a few amps of cell phone current; free VOLTage (heh) for well-to-do. Not only is this ridiculous, it is also capricous:
Maura "Cookie" Wood relies on the outlets to charge her electric wheelchair... She lives with friends in a homeless camp... Without the ability to charge her chair,"I'd be stuck," Wood said. "They'll have to arrest me for sleeping in public, in my chair."They may not (yet) be arresting older women in wheelchairs, but they harass everyone else.
"If I sit down, they come up, ask for ID and run my name," said Fred Hall, 51, a North Carolina native. "If I spread a blanket and read a book, they arrest me for sleeping. It’s crazy. They do the weirdest things to us."Fortunately for Darren Kersey, there are still some sane judges in Florida:
Barfield, with the local ACLU, said Kersey's arrest is a "striking example of the city's war on the homeless."
Monday morning Circuit Judge Charles Williams threw the case out, saying Frangioni lacked the legal justification to make the arrest.Which does not excuse the cruelty of arresting a homeless person and dragging him or her off to jail. Think about this: would a man in a suit and tie charging his cell phone using the very same outlet have been arrested? Or would the police officer have nodded politely and gone about his rounds? You know the answer, and so do I.