Texas Cops Compete to Steal Homeless People’s Signs for Fun

www.alternet.org

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Months after their conduct was discovered, two police officers were disciplined for making a game of stealing signs from homeless people in Midland, Texas — and many believe the cops’ punishment was not harsh enough to fit the offense.

In the town with an estimated 300 homeless people, investigators reported 8 signs in Officer Derek Hester’s patrol vehicle, and Officer Daniel Zoelzer was discovered to have trashed an additional 10. Both officers claimed that they took the signs after issuing trespass warnings, but no such warnings were recorded in 2013. Text messages between the two show the officers expressing concerns about being found out, although one of the men’s texts read, “Oh I don’t care lol I’m not worried.” After an internal investigation, which was not originally publicized, Hester and Zoelzer were suspended for three unpaid days.Zoelzer and Hester were first probed when another, unidentified cop reported Hester for procuring brass knuckles and refusing to turn them in as evidence; the police department learned of the game when looking into the matter. The suspension occurred two months after the police department first heard about the officers’ misconduct, but despite backlash, Police Chief Price Robinson contends that the disciplinary measure was satisfactory.

Civil rights groups and advocacy organizations argue that the officers’ conduct violated the free speech rights of the homeless and constituted discriminatory harassment. Moreover, the city does not officially ban panhandling.

The criminalization and discriminatory treatment of homeless people is a growing problem nationwide. In another notable example, State Rep. Tom Brower (D) took to sledgehammering their possessions in Hawaii. Brower told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that he was “disgusted” by homeless people, and explained that he smashed unidentified shopping carts. Several cities have also considered or implemented ordinances targeting their homeless populations: Los Angeles, for instance, may ban feeding the homeless in public.

A Florida county spent over $5 million jailing over 30 people for quality-of-life offenses, as opposed to major crimes, and Tampa passed a law last year to permit jailing people who sleep in public.

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After years of research and a series of unpleasant experiences concerning the current child protection services system, Alec Cope decided to combat the cancerous corruption through information. Freelance writing articles as a form of protest and distributing them throughout his former high-school and local area, Alec struck special chords with whomever he was in contact with.

Alec has been involved in activism such as sit down protests as well as Idle No More gatherings. Being independent for the majority of his time, Alec became a member of the WeAreChange family to assist one of the organizations that inspired him to become active in the first place. With a larger platform and positive support Alec has committed the majority of his time to research, writing, and maintaining social media with the goal to continue expanding the awakening sweeping throughout all levels of society.

Growing up within a rural area in Northern Michigan as well as being a native American descendant, Alec is seeking to expose environmental abuse in his state as well as globally. A high-school dropout, Alec chases his passion for writing and empowering individuals while showing any isolated person that they too can overcome the odds with a community that will support them. Alec lives in the lower peninsula of Michigan near Kalamazoo.

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