Move Beyond Apathy

Homelessness

BY STEVE MCALLISTER SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY AUG 1, 2015

Randy Miller has been homeless for a long time. He has been described as a gentle giant who suffers from alcoholism and the consequences of inebriating addictions. Yet regardless of Mr. Miller's frequent visits to the Sarasota County Jail and his inability to work toward a better life for himself, he should not be subjected to being treated the way that he was by Officer Andrew Halpin on July 18. That behavior is fine for college frat parties, and perhaps if Officer Halpin had let Mr. Miller throw peanuts into his mouth we would have no problem at all, yet it is unacceptable when you are the representative care provider of someone whom you have handcuffed at the behest of this community.

I believe that when enabling a person with the tools to force others into submission in the name of the law, we had better be very selective in our choice of person. If an officer shows symptoms of disdain for humanity or acts in a way disrespectful of the people he is supposed to protect, he should not be given a gun, badge and handcuffs with which he can misuse his authority. Considering Officer Halpin's treatment of Randy Miller, his taking advantage of Mr. Miller's inebriated state and the inappropriate use of the power entrusted to him by using a disadvantaged citizen for target practice, he is probably better suited for a career putting peanuts and other groceries into bags than protecting and serving the people of Sarasota by handcuffing and teasing them for his own amusement.

The most unfortunate thing about Officer Andrew Halpin's treatment of Randy Miller is that it does so closely resemble Sarasota's public policy in dealing with the homeless overall. Halpin's inability to respect human dignity, and the officers that stand by and allowed the violation to happen, is indicative of the way this community regularly treats our homeless residents. Unfortunately, we've been tossing peanuts for quite awhile, and teasing of solutions and shelter while most of us sit by and watch as human dignity is disregarded for sake of a system that doesn't work and a people that don't seem to care if it does.

Should we be able to move beyond the apathy that many feel for people like Randy Miller and inspire him to move beyond the apathy that keeps him in his state of outlaw addiction, we will be able to make this kind of scenario possible much less often. From the dehumanizing treatment he was shown by the Sarasota Police Department's representative to the way he often interacts with the rest of his world, Randy Miller is a tragic story, and while many would like to wait for him to magically find the faith to do the heroic thing and conquer his demons by himself, we will be better served across the board should we be able to recognize our power to be heroes to those who can't do it for themselves. As the Doug Logan leads the City of Sarasota through its Housing First initiative, I hope Randy Miller's housing is made a priority to make up for this unfortunate incident, and I hope Sarasota stops playing games and instead implements solutions.

Steve McAllister is the author of How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld, host of Renaissance SRQ on WSLR and producer of the Home Free Project

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