Police: they have a job that demands respect, even if those doing the job occassionally do not. We talk a great deal here at Techdirt about some of the frightening uses of military grade equipment by local law enforcement agencies, about what sometimes seems like a neverending list of civil rightsabuses, and so on. Still, as I said, I respect the job. It’s my respect for that job that leads me to think that the Portland cops who arrested a homeless woman for charging her phone on a public outlet need a greater understanding of what it is exactly that police in this stupid country are supposed to do.
Now, if you’re thinking to yourself, “There’s no way police in Portland arrested a person just for plugging her cell phone charger into a public outfit,” well, you’re correct; they arrested two people for that in one trip.
In this case, the theft was first reported by Portland Patrol Inc., and two Portland police officers followed up to issue the woman and her co-defendant, a homeless man who was also charging his cellphone at the planter box outlet, citations to appear in court for third-degree theft of services — a Class C misdemeanor. According to the Electrical Research Institute, it costs about 25 cents a year to charge the average mobile phone. If the phone in this scenario had gone from zero charge to full charge, the cost would have amounted to mere fractions of a penny.
“Jackie,” (who did not want her real name used), says she was shocked when four uniformed officers all agreed her actions warranted not only their response, but also charges and a court summons.