Mount Vernon officers buy shoplifting homeless man socks instead of arresting him

MOUNT VERNON, Westchester County (WABC) -- Two police officers in Westchester County were called to a report for shoplifting, but instead of making an arrest, they helped a homeless man in need of a very basic item.

Mount Vernon Police Officers Chris Cartwright and Jason Velez caught the attention of our Be Kind campaign.

The officers responded to a Dollar Tree Store and found the man, who told them he was homeless and admitted putting over a dozen pairs of socks in his bag.

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Instead of taking him into custody, they bought him $15 worth of socks.

"Honestly, I thought to myself, nothing better than a fresh pair of socks," Cartwright said. "I just wanted to be there, maybe change his attitude for the day, do something good for him, and hopefully it gets paid forward going down the road."

The incident comes at a time when the Mount Vernon Police Department could use some good news. Westchester County District Attorney Miriam Rocah says officers here have engaged in persistent misconduct, including strip searches and excessive use of force, and she is calling on the Department of Justice to investigate.

"It's what the PD wanted," Mount Vernon Police Commissioner Glenn Scott said. "We want to get rid of these old accusations so that we can focus on moving forward."

Scott says his officers are trained to think how they would want their own family members treated and are encouraged to use discretion.

"Not every call is the same, not every incident is going to be the same, and our mindset has always been the same since day one," Officer Velez said. "We're here for the people, we're here for our community. And at that moment, we thought it was right. And I'm glad we did it, and we would do it again."

Empathy instead of escalation.

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