Two weeks ago, with the anger over George Floyd’s death escalating, a large protest took place in Santa Monica, just a short distance from our home. Looters used the protest as cover to ransack the area a few blocks from where the protest was taking place, smashing windows, setting fire to some establishments, and destroying large parts of an area that we visit regularly. Culver City put a 4pm curfew in place, but there was still looting that night a few blocks from us on Venice Blvd. To be clear, it was not protesters looting – the folks doing the looting were very organized criminals who showed up wherever protests were occurring knowing that police resources would be tied up, and then looted nearby businesses a few blocks away. That said, it was an unnerving time.
In the midst of this chaos, once darkness fell we noticed that a homeless guy in a wheelchair was hanging out at the end of our driveway, which is unusual for our neighborhood. We went out to talk to him, make sure he was OK, and give him some water, and it was pretty clear that he wasn’t a danger but that he had some significant mental issues. We didn’t know what to do to help him, so we called our police non-emergency line for a “welfare check” – we just wanted to make sure this guy would be OK, but didn’t want him harassed or taken away.
Three minutes later two cops showed up. They didn’t put on their lights, and didn’t approach the guy in a way that was at all threatening. We came out as they were talking to him, and they were beyond kind to this guy. “You doing OK? You need medical help? Anything hurting?” We asked the cops if they knew the guy and he jumped in to say “My name is Charles!” then… “but not in charge”, to which the cops cheerily responded “and now we know him, good to meet you Charles”. Charles didn’t want to go to a shelter, and the cops said they’d be full anyhow given the curfews. They asked if he had any medical issues that needed attention, to which Charles responded that he had a “broken heart”. Charles was cheerful during the entire exchange, the cops were joking with him, and finally they said they thought he’d be OK but would send a car in the morning to make sure he was still all right.
I know cops are getting a bad rap right now, but I was grateful for the compassion and professionalism these men displayed when we asked them to check on the welfare of a homeless man during what I’m sure was a very stressful night to be in law enforcement. They didn’t escalate the situation, and they put everyone present at ease. Clearly some of the videos that are coming out show a need to make dramatic improvements to the way law enforcement is administered in this country, but our experience on this particular night was very much an example of the police at their best.