The panhandler’s sign reads “broke,” but the Cheyenne, Wyoming, Police Department wants people to rethink handing over their cash.

Yesterday, July 22, we arrested a transient for public intoxication. This is a person we frequently deal with, but we…

Posted by Cheyenne Police Department on Sunday, July 23, 2017

As Fox Q13 reports, the police of Cheyenne were hoping their post would inspire people to give to charity instead of panhandlers. In a Facebook post, the Cheyenne Police Department shared a photo of money taken from a transient arrested for public intoxication. The department wrote:

This person collected $234.94 in just a few hours of asking for money. Rather than feeding someone’s alcohol addiction, you can donate directly to local charities such as the Comea Shelter where your money will assist the homeless in a much more effective way.

Though they wanted to show that there are better ways to help panhandlers than giving them money, the message wasn’t well-received by everyone.

In the comments, many took issue with the department’s actions in general and with the idea that they should stop giving money to panhandlers.

Cheyenne Police Department/Facebook Cheyenne Police Department/Facebook

Some even accused the department of being cruel or insensitive.

Cheyenne Police Department/Facebook Cheyenne Police Department/Facebook

However, not everyone took issue with the post. There were some who defended the police and agreed that giving cash to transients enabled addiction.

Cheyenne Police Department/Facebook Cheyenne Police Department/Facebook Cheyenne Police Department/Facebook

The controversy prompted the department to follow up with another post, clarifying a few misconceptions.

They wrote that the person in question was arrested for public intoxication, public urination, having an open container of alcohol, and refusing to obey commands.

We want to clarify several things regarding our recent post about panhandling:1. When we encounter someone who is…

Posted by Cheyenne Police Department on Tuesday, July 25, 2017

In addition, the person was well-known to the police, having been arrested multiple times over the past several years on similar charges. The department added that it did not keep his money (as some commenters had claimed), but inventoried it and kept it safe until he was freed.

The department also stated that its first step when dealing with public intoxication is not to arrest the person, but to find them treatment. They wrote:

If that person refuses treatment and will continue to violate the ordinance of being intoxicated in public, placing themselves and others in danger, that person is arrested. When a person is at the level of public intoxication, they are typically a danger to themselves and have difficulty walking and speaking, staying out of traffic, controlling their bodily functions, etc. This causes not only a public nuisance, but a public safety hazard.

The department added that the police provide addiction counselors and other resources after someone is arrested (and even after they’re released from jail) in order to help break the cycle of addiction.

The larger point, however, was to encourage people not to help feed addictions by handing over cash. The department wrote:

“This post was put up to illustrate how our best intentions of helping somebody out may actually enable them to continue in their alcoholism or other self-destructive behaviors.”

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