Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Defending a cop's poor judgment and callousness does not pass the smell test

I can understand why the city does not want trash littered in Houston’s business district, but ticketing a hungry homeless man for scrounging through a trash bin for something to eat? … That’s pure chickenshit!

Officer Dudley Doright failed to use the discretion afforded the police in enforcing our laws. In this instance at least, he chose to be an asshole. And HPD does not pass the smell test when it justifies an officer’s poor judgment and callousness.

By Mike Glenn

Houston Chronicle
March 11, 2013

James Kelly was hungry and looking for something to eat. He tried to find it in a trash bin near Houston City Hall.

For that, the man, who said he spent about nine years in the Navy but fell on hard times, was ticketed by a Houston police officer.

According to his copy of the citation, Kelly, 44, was charged on Thursday with "disturbing the contents of a garbage can in (the) downtown business district."

"I was just basically looking for something to eat," Kelly said Monday night. "I wasn't in a real good mood."

Houston city officials referred questions about the citation to the Houston Police Department.

HPD issued a short statement: "The ordinance is specific to the Central Business District. It is a violation for anyone to remove any contents of any bin, bag or other container that has been placed for collection of garbage, trash or recyclable materials. An officer has probable cause to issue such a citation when a person is seen opening a lid and rummaging through contents of a dumpster or trash can."

But, in a later email, Houston city officials said a charitable food service event was happening at James Bute Park in downtown Houston at the same time Kelly was being issued the citation.

Kelly's supporters said the charge against him is a result of the city's efforts last year to regulate feeding Houston's homeless population.

"Now, when they try to feed themselves anyway possible, they make that a crime as well," said Houston attorney Randall Kallinen, who is representing Kelly.

"It's crazy to have a law where you can't look through things that are being discarded," Kallinen said. "People are always looking for cans and so forth — that's part of recycling."

Later Monday, Kallinen said groups had been reaching out to try and help Kelly. "It lifts my heart to hear that people do care. All too often, you feel nobody gives a damn whether you live or die," Kelly said.

Even with the recent spate of publicity about his case, Kelly said his living arrangements in Houston were still up in the air. "These people are not homeless by choice. They are homeless because there is just no place for them," Kallinen said.

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