Two Texas police officers were recently suspended without pay after an internal affairs investigation uncovered that they had held a competition amongst themselves to see which officer could confiscate the most cardboard signs from homeless individuals in Midland, their area of jurisdiction. Although the officers were suspended due to the fact that panhandling does not actually violate any city laws, they were only relieved of their duties for three days.
Midland Police Chief Price Robinson explained that the officers received a just punishment, and that the situation was made clear to the rest of the staff.
“We want to respect people, no matter who they are — homeless, whatever,” Robinson said. "The situation’s been dealt with. Those officers understand"
The officers Robinson is referencing are Derek Hester and Daniel Zoelzer, both of whom were found in possession of about ten cardboard signs that they had confiscated from individuals throughout the city over the course of about two weeks. According to the Dallas News, Midland has a population of about 300 homeless individuals.
Hester and Zoelzer both claimed that they confiscated the signs after issuing criminal trespass warnings, but there are no police records of such warnings being given to homeless people in Midland during 2013. Vice reports that the majority of the signs confiscated by the officers were innocuous pleas for support, such as one that read, “Anything helps, God bless.”
Although many have argued that Hester and Zoelzer deserved a stricter punishment, the two remain active on the Midland Police force.