The central mission of police work is to uphold the law. But police officers are also human beings, and so can find themselves confronted with situations that force them to ask the question -- should I really just look the other way? As south Florida outlet WSVN reported, Florida police officer Vicki Thomas recently found herself dealing with that very dilemma when she discovered a woman was shoplifting from a supermarket simply because she couldn't afford to buy food for her children.
Thomas did arrest Jessica Robles on a theft misdemeanor charge, but opted against booking her and taking her to jail. Instead, she gave her a notice to appear in court. And then Thomas handed her $100 so she could buy more groceries.
Robles was picked up by Thomas at the end of September outside a Publix supermarket in Miami. She didn't do much to hide her theft; she simply walked out of the Publix with a cart filled with $300 in food merchandise. She also made no attempt to cover up her crime. Upon being asked by Thomas why she had waltzed out with the booty, she responded by saying, "My children are hungry," as Thomas recounted to WSVN. She added her boyfriend recently lost her job, but because of a paperwork problem, the federal assistance he was receiving for food had come to an end.
Thomas also told the police she has three children ages 12 and younger. And her 12-year old daughter Anais provided more details about the family's struggles. "Not fun, to see my brother in the dirt hungry, asking for food, and we have to tell him, 'There is nothing here,' " Anais told the news station.
Confronted with such a situation, what was Thomas to do? She first found out that Robles didn't have a criminal past. She then decided to be understanding of Robles's plight, opting against pursuing the struggling mother to the full extent of the law; Thomas charged her with a misdemeanor and gave her a notice to appear in court.
And Thomas didn't stop there, as she told WSVN. "I made the decision to buy her some groceries because arresting her wasn't going to solve the problem with her children being hungry," she said.
Does the Miami-Dade police department condone their officers making such a decision? "Police officers do have discretion, and what Thomas did was completely in bounds," Robin Pinkard, a public information officer for the Miami-Dade police force told AOL Jobs. Pinkard also commended Thomas for first checking into Robles's criminal record.
Others are regarding Thomas's conduct as heroic. "This is the most awesome cop in Miami," declared the Huffington Post. The display of heroism by police officers is a regular feature on AOL Jobs. In one memorable incident from last month, a sergeant in Kansas City responded to a call from a motorist stuck on a bridge. As he arrived on the scene, the motorist was moving to jump off the bridge, but the sergeant was able to grab and save the driver from making a 60-foot plunge.
Thomas, for her part, left the mother, who said she is trying to find work, with a parting message: "The only thing I asked of her is, when she gets on her feet, that she help someone else out," Thomas told the news station. "And she said she would."
This post was updated at 2:30 PM Eastern Time with the interview from Pinkard.
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