Defending Property, Aiding the Needy — And Nobody Gets Hurt

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Bozeman, Montana Police Officer Mark Ziegler responded to a shoplifting call at the local IGA the evening of January 29. On his arrival he learned that a man had filled his pockets with food, pencils, and “maybe things for his kids.”

Ziegler arrested the man, wrote him a ticket for theft, then released him — after asking why he had been stealing. He learned that the 32-year-old unemployed father was desperate to feed his family. Ziegler asked for the man’s phone number and told him, “Give me 15 minutes.”

The officer then ran to Walmart, bought a few dozen frozen pizzas — at his own expense — and delivered them to the man’s house.

And then, in keeping with authoritative advice not to publicize charitable deeds, Ziegler “kept the story to himself,” recalls the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. He was tracked down by a reporter for the paper who happened to be at the 911 dispatch center at the time of Ziegler’s visit to the man’s home.

Private property was defended; a hungry family was quietly given help; nobody got hurt, and (apart from the wages paid to Ziegler for performing  a function that could be carried out — as it used to be — through private contract) no money was extorted at gunpoint for redistribution. Nor was the desperate father hauled off in handcuffs or otherwise needlessly humiliated.

Somewhere the architects of our quickly maturing Homeland Security State are reviewing Ziegler’s conduct and trying to figure out how he — like other decent and conscientious police officers of whom I’m aware — wasn’t filtered out, and perhaps how they could correct that oversight. I’m kidding. Sort of.

4:30 pm on February 6, 2010