Compassionate cop applauded for sharing a roadside meal

A Massachusetts State Trooper has been recognized by his superiors after he was pictured spontaneously sharing a meal with a woman who had been panhandling.

Jacob Morse/AP
Massachusetts State Trooper Luke Bonin (r.), dressed in plainclothes, sits on the bumper of his cruiser as he shares a meal with a woman who was panhandling in Fall River, Mass.

The cop caught in the act, the grainy cell phone picture, and the ensuing response could start to feel routine, but one Massachusetts State Trooper has been called out for unusual policing of a different kind. 

Trooper Luke Bonin was leaving court, dressed in a suit, when he drove by a woman sitting on the roadside in Fall River, Mass.

"She was holding a sign and asking for help from anyone who would pay attention," the Massachusetts State Police wrote in a Facebook post. "Trooper Bonin continued to drive on – directly to a local establishment, where he ordered two meals. He returned to the woman, pulled up, and exited his cruiser." 

The woman thought she was about to receive a citation for panhandling, and she quickly offered to leave.

"I'm not here to kick you out," Bonin told her.

He told her to pick a meal, and they shared a picnic and a conversation by the roadside. A photo of the meal was shared on social media and attracted thousands of likes and shares. The unseen photographer, Jake Morse of Massachusetts, told The Herald News he was glad the photo was turned over to the police, so credit went back to the officer.

"And they say chivalry is dead," Mr. Morse wrote in the photo's caption on May 11. "This guy stopped to have lunch with the girl pan handling on the bottom of President Avenue. Much respect."

Numerous stories have recently surfaced from around the country where entire police departments are called on the carpet for systemic racism and fragmented community relations. This can leave the public wondering whether re-establishing trust between law enforcement and locals is possible. Small acts of service like Bonin's serve to underscore what good is possible, and illustrate the type of work that many fine police officers exhibit daily, cops say. 

"We have extraordinary troopers on the Massachusetts State Police who conduct themselves honorably, and perform selfless acts, every day," Massachusetts State Police wrote, saying Bonin shared his story only when pressed. "Most times, it goes unnoticed. But not this day."

Such stories can help police departments express the values that can be difficult to see during crime-fighting. In November, another positive story surfaced in Georgia, where a state trooper took four children out for Halloween treats to ease the news that their parents had died. His fellow trooper told The Christian Science Monitor that many such stories happen without making the news.

"We are charged with trust, fortitude, professionalism, and compassion, and I think this comes directly from his compassion," Trooper Dusty Starling at the Georgia Department of Public Safety told the Monitor. "I don't believe that anyone enters the profession to do harm to others."

Comments under Bonin's story of spontaneous picnicking expressed support for police officers and appreciation for the compassion of a "Good Samaritan."

"I read this story and got that game-winning Patriots feeling, that 'nothing to do with me' feeling, but that 'I want to cheer for someone' feeling," one man wrote. 

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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