I was talking to Randy in Portland this past fall when a group of police officers came up and started to harass him. We were having a peaceful conversation and from what I could see Randy was a bother to no one. It was an interesting situation that was brand new to me. Having my camera in hand I wanted to record, but I am not news media or even a TV producer anymore. I felt if I started to record the officers’ anger would escalate and they would take it out on Randy. Everything I do is to help homeless people so I decided not to record. I did, however, stand right there keeping my camera visible refusing to leave Randy’s side. I wanted the officers to know if they seriously crossed the line I was right there to capture everything. It was an extremely awkward moment as three officers “insisted” Randy leave the area and two other officers kept their attention on me.
When Randy calmed down a little we did this interview. He was clearly emotional. Randy stated in the last twelve days police have harassed him nine times.
In my travels, I have met some wonderful police officers who go far above and beyond to help homeless people living on the streets. I have heard and read reports of police harassing homeless people, and when I was homeless there were a few times police “pushed” me along. But this is the first time I have witnessed a homeless person being confronted on the streets by police where I was actually involved. I’ll admit, it was scary for me, so I cannot imagine how stressful it was for Randy.
I understand the need for security and policing for public safety. But there were other people sitting on the public sidewalk so clearly, these officers were targeting Randy. I also don’t know the back story, yet I can tell you from what I witnessed the officers were very wrong in making Randy leave.