Homeless man angry about police treatment in library: your

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sun, 18 Apr 1999 23:54:43 -0700 (PDT)

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If you've visited public libraries while homeless, how were or are you
treated there?  Fairly?  The same as others?

How do police treat homeless people where you live?  Fairly?  The same as

For a related article, see below:

FWD  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - April 17, 1999


     By Georgia Pabst of the Journal Sentinel staff

Until two months ago, Lewis Caples had a job and a half, an apartment and
little sympathy for the homeless, who he figured just needed to get a job.

Caples also claims to have never had a run-in with police.

But the 33-year-old who spent eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps and
attended college for three years slipped into homelessness when he lost his

"It's humbled me," he said Friday at the Repairers of the Breach drop-in
center for the homeless, 1335 W. Vliet St. "I never thought I would be
homeless. I now know that circumstances can change that. And I never had a
run-in with police until I became homeless."

Caples was still angry and embarrassed, he said, after being handcuffed
Thursday by police at the Milwaukee Public Library.    He showed one wrist
with scratches that he said came from the cuffs after police mistook him
for another man who had allegedly committed a sex-related crime at the

Caples said he was at the library doing research with a friend when police
ordered him to stand up and handcuffed him. He said he tried to ask police
why he was being held, but one officer responded: "I don't have to tell you
anything. For a homeless guy, you sure pretend to be Perry Mason."

Caples said he volunteered identification and asked that police run a check
on him to show he had a clean record. When a library employee and others at
the library told police that Caples was not the suspect, Caples said, one
officer ran after the real suspect, while the other remained and continued
to be rude to him and others who came to his defense.

The other officer returned and apologized, Caples said. "He was nice. He
offered me $5, but I said I didn't want it. I'm homeless, but I have a job
now," he said, adding that he hopes to end his homelessness soon.

The manner in which police treat the homeless is an issue advocates are
hoping authorities will address. Momentum for a review of the Police
Department's policy regarding the treatment of the homeless increased
following the March 26 arrest of Faymond Brown.

Advocates for the homeless allege that police used excessive force when
they took Brown into custody; the district attorney's office is reviewing
the case.

Milwaukee Police Chief Arthur Jones was unavailable for comment Friday on
the Brown case and the general treatment of the homeless.

Joe Volk of Community Advocates, who has worked on issues involving the
homeless for years, said that when the Midwest Express Center opened last
year with the National Governors' Association meeting, police were more
active in asking homeless people to move along.

In general, he said, homeless shelters have had a pretty good relationship
with the Police Department and officers have often taken people to shelters
and been cooperative.

Volk said the Police Department's "quality of life" campaign, which targets
minor crimes such as loitering and jaywalking, has had wide impact.

"The question is, are the homeless being treated substantially different
than others, and I can't say at this point," Volk said.

Christopher Ahmuty, executive director of the American Civil Liberties
Union, said it's hard to tell whether police are cracking down on the
homeless, except for anecdotal incidents.

"Society asks law enforcement to keep order, and many perceive the homeless
as disorderly and suspect," he said.

Bill Hanbury, president of the Greater Milwaukee Convention & Visitors
Bureau, said he doesn't perceive a problem at this point. "But the homeless
issue is a very serious problem for this community because having one
homeless person on the street is not good for the community," he said. The
entire community needs to try to effectively deal with those who have
fallen out of the safety net, he said.


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior
interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**

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