A Florida cop has been suspended (with pay) after a video emerged that shows him slapping a homeless man in the face. The cell phone footage shows the officer trying to force the man, identified as Bruce Laclair by the Miami Herald, out of a bus terminal. He grasps Laclair’s arm and pushes him, causing Laclair to lose his balance and fall to the ground, hard. Laclair says (somewhat understandably) “fuck you” to the cop, who spits out, “Relax. I am telling you right now what’s going to happen. I’m escorting you out right now. You are not going to go pee. You are not supposed to be here.”
As Laclair tries to argue the officer slaps him so hard across the face he falls to the ground again (see the video below). The newspaper reports that Laclair was arrested for trespassing. It’s not clear how he managed to pull off trespassing at a bus terminal, but it’s also not surprising, since Florida has led the way in coming up with creative ways to criminalize the activities of homeless people. Multiple cities in the state have established bans on asking for money, sleeping in public and a slew of other innocuous activities that are, in practice, only applied to the homeless. The laws serve as a pretext to help police remove homeless people from certain areas and new ones are cropping up all the time; the recent cold snap hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of Tampa’s public officials for an ordinance prohibiting the use of blankets on the street.
Spending lots of money to cycle the homeless in and out of jail, instead of spending less money to house them, is the norm in most of the country. Last week, Alyssa Figueroa reported that progressive wonderland California has 500 laws on the books targeting the homeless, from sidewalk sitting bans to laws that make it a crime to give out food.
As Think Progress points out, criminalization measures are not only discriminatory, but can lead to violent police encounters that end in death. In New Mexico, James Boyd was gunned down by police after they confronted him about camping in the foothills of Albuquerque.