Return a cell phone... go to jail?
Tales of police overreaction continue to amaze and disappoint. The latest news of a wildly inappropriate police response comes from our pals in the UK, where a young Paul Leicester found a cell phone lying in the street.
Leicester, ever the Good Samaritan, called up the last person who'd been dialed on the handset and arranged with the receiver, a friend of the phone's owner, to pick up the phone at the nearest police station.
Perhaps Leicester should have simply agreed to meet them there, as he'd find the next four hours of his life spent under arrest at the Merseyside police station, guilty, as the Daily Express puts it, of "theft by finding."
The chills that such a case give me are hard to put into words, namely because of the completely wrong message it sends to people who just want to exhibit common decency. Each year, Britons lose some 1 million cell phones. I've heard the figure reaches as high as 12 million phones in the U.S. each year, and only a small percentage of those handsets are ever returned.
When someone who finds a phone actually takes the time to thoughtfully contact the owner and arrange for the phone to be collected at a safe place, what are we saying when he is arrested for a crime instead of being thanked profusely?
The other thing about this case that I don't understand at all: What kind of cell phone thief would take a phone into a police station and turn it in to the cops?
Meanwhile, the Merseyside police have (obviously) dropped the case, but Leicester's family remains rightfully angry over the incident and say they expect an apology for their son, one which they've yet to receive. I'd add that the kid probably deserves a free cell phone for his trouble, too.