An Index Of Personal Character

Posted: February 12, 2009 in Civil Rights, Compassion, Homelessness, Morality, Police Harrassment

Yesterday, I came across two articles about homelessness. Both ended with outcomes which were diametrically different.

One was uplifting; the second was disgusting in the extreme. One showed humanity at its best; the other, human nature at its worst. One showed the kindness of a private citizen; the other, actions by local law enforcement that were beyond mere police harassment – it was nothing short of police brutality.  

The first story, Man Goes from Under Porch to Inside House, was a report from KSHB-TV 41 in Kansas City, MO. It told of two men and a dog.

The first man, Jim Stewart, is a gentleman who owns a number of real estate properties in Shreveport, LA. On one of those properties is a vacant building – or so he thought. More accurately, the building itself was vacant, but the space beneath the front porch wasn’t.

It was there, under the porch, that Mr. Stewart found the second man – Kenny Woods and his dog (who is named "17") – living.

Technically, Mr. Woods and 17 – who are homeless – were trespassing. So, it would’ve been understandable had Mr. Stewart called the local police and had them either ushered off the property or had them arrested. But he didn’t. Instead, he offered them shelter.

Mr. Woods and 17 are now the "security guards" for the property and building – which is being remodeled. To me that’s a win-win situation.

Says Mr. Stewart,

"It seemed a shame to me. I have a 2000 square foot house and a guy living under the porch. There’s a lot of homeless people like Kenny out there and all they need is a leg up to give them a chance to better themselves."

After reading the article, I felt my faith in human nature being renewed.

Mr. Stewart is proof positive that there are kind, decent and caring people left in the world.

In sharp contrast was the second article, which made my stomach muscles tighten in horror.

The report and its accompanying video, Caught On Tape: Fresno Police Officers Violent Arrest of a Homeless Man, were on KSEE 24 News. It outlined the physical brutalization of a homeless man, Glen Beaty, by two Fresno police officers. The video shows one of the officers punching him in the face at least six times, while the other officer was restraining him on the ground.

The article quoted Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer as saying:

"The individual was stiff. There was alcohol around him. It was very apparent that he had been drinking excessively and when the officers contacted the individual there was resistance in terms of the line of questioning. The individual refused to answer certain questions and at some point there was an altercation that occurred between the suspect and the officers. At one point, the officers, one of the officers was punched by the suspect in the arm. The officer had his badge ripped off of his shirt."

Okay. So Mr. Beaty had been "drinking excessively," which means that the officers had reason to believe he was intoxicated. And, yes, Mr. Beaty may have "… refused to answer certain questions." However, those would have been reasons to arrest him – not brutally beat him.

And, before someone is so unwise as to leave a comment or send me an email insisting that Mr. Beaty was "resisting arrest" therefore the officers were within their right to assert force to restrain him – think again.

I’ve watched the video several times.

Mr. Beaty was being held down by one of the officers, while the other punched him in the face. On top of that, both of the officers are rather burly. It’s hard for me to imagine that they would have had any trouble immobilizing him and putting the handcuffs on him – especially since Mr. Beaty was alleged to have been "drinking excessively."

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am NOT condemning law enforcement officers. Nor am I making allusions that every officer is a "bad cop."

Indeed, police in every community deserve our gratitude for their service. They are doing a job that is beset with danger and their sacrifices are often times unappreciated.

However in this instance, the violence perpetrated on Mr. Beaty by those two officers was – in my opinion – absolutely uncalled for. It overstepped and abused the boundaries of their authority. It is illegal. It is immoral. And, most of all, it is inhumane.

I came away from the reading the first article more convinced that we have the capacity to show kindness and compassion toward one another.

I came away from the second with the knowledge that we still have a long way to go at becoming a morally mature society.

A dear friend of mine shared a quote with me a few months back. It is by Abigail Van Buren and seems an appropriate way to end this post:

"The best index to a person’s character is:
(a) how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and
(b) how he treats people who can’t fight back."

  1. Skye says:

    Bravo Mr. Stewart! Would that there were more like you out there.

    And shame… shame on those two police officers.

    I know all police are not like that… but those two… words fail me.

  2. Maggie says:

    OMG… that poor man! I hope they throw those cops in jail. There is no excuse for them to beat him that way!

  3. anamerican says:

    It was hard to watch this tape~not only for the man who is being beaten without cause,but for what it says about the lack of respect that we have for each other in this world.
    These police truly dishonor their profession by their lack of understanding that intoxication +homelessness does not give them the right to misuse their positions by using brutality. What bullies!
    Love your quote! ;>)

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