CHEYENNE, Wyo. (CBS4) – Police in Wyoming are encouraging people to give to charities instead of giving money to panhandlers on the street.
“Rather than feeding someone’s alcohol addiction, you can donate directly to local charities,” the Cheyenne Police Department posted to Facebook after arresting a transient for alleged public intoxication.
Officers say the person, who was claiming to be broke, had $234.94 that they had collected in just a few hours.
More than 7,000 people replied to the department’s post, which has been shared nearly 44,000 times, many of them upset with the department’s arrest and then their post about it on Facebook.
One user called it an “absolutely ridiculous article,” and said that the department should be “ashamed.”
Public shaming by police departments on Facebook has come under scrutiny lately.
One example was from the Taunton Police Department, who posted about a woman arrested for DUI with a bearded lizard in her bra.
Taunton’s post has been criticized as being demeaning, especially for a woman who had not been convicted of a crime.
Arisha Hatch, the campaign director of Color of Change, a civil rights advocacy organization, said “it makes [people] the butt of a joke on what for many people is probably their worst day.”
The Cheyenne Police Department, two days after the initial post, took to Facebook again to clarify their first one.
In their follow up, they say the “post was put up to illustrate how our best intentions of helping somebody out [by giving them money] may actually enable them to continue in their alcoholism or other self-destructive behaviors.”
The person arrested, they say, has been arrested several times before for similar offenses as mentioned in the comments in the first post.
In the comments of that initial post, the Cheyenne Police Department clarified that the person was not arrested for panhandling, but instead “arrested for public intoxication, having an open container of alcohol, urinating in public and refusing to obey commands.”