Overland Park, KS — A rational citizen might think the police would thank someone if they returned a found cell phone, but not in Overland Park, Kansas. Rick Conklin learned the hard way what happens when you return lost items in the town.

He stopped to get lunch at the Subway near 135th Street and Metcalf Avenue. After he got out he noticed an iPhone 4 lying on the ground.

It was beat up and destroyed…I didn’t think it would work. I thought I would take a look at it when I got off work to see who it belonged to.

He said he noticed it was cracked and beat all to pieces, but picked it up and put it in his car, not thinking much about such a worthless cell phone. After eating, and going home after work, he waited a day to return the cell phone.

The iPhone was in the seat making noise. I turned it over, turned it on. [There] was a text stating ‘I lost my iPhone, please return to the Subway.’ Immediately that’s where I went,” he said.

After sleeping on it for a night, he got up the next day prepared to take the cell phone back to the restaurant. That’s when he learned that being a Good Samaritan doesn’t always result in someone being grateful.

Instead of having his name published in the newspaper as a kind person, he found himself being charged with a misdemeanor. Shawnee police officers knocked on his door and asked him about his possession of the cell phone and what his intentions were.

I really thought after I explained myself to the officer that would have taken care of it, taken care of the problem,” Conkling said. I am not sure why it didn’t.

They then charged him with misdemeanor theft of lost or mislaid property. Apparently, Conklin was located by a citizen using their “Find My iPhone” feature Apple provides to report their phone was in his possession. Ariel Rothfield told The Free Thought Project in a written statement the citizen led police to Conklin’s house.

At any rate, Conklin will potentially have a police record for playing around with the idea of Finders Keepers. All of which has caused him to be, understandably, a bit hesitant to pick up anything found on the side of the road. Rothfield wrote;

There is no law requiring a person to return a found item within a certain amount of time. However, Overland Park police told 41 Action News Conkling should have brought it into the Subway immediately after finding the phone.

John Lacy, media relations officer for Overland Park PD told 41 Action News;

If you know it’s not yours you want to turn it into where you found it. If it’s in a local business, turn it into the business. If you don’t feel comfortable, take it to the police station.

Conklin says he’s learned his lesson but still isn’t sure if he’d go out of his way to drop everything and return something as quickly as an owner might want. When asked what he’d do if he was faced with a similar situation he responded;

I’m going to have to think twice about it,” he said…If it’s near a business, I would turn it into the business and see if anyone said anything about a lost phone but I would have to think twice about it. I don’t know that I would do it right away.

The police can and do charge anyone they want with any infraction they feel has been committed. But the whole ordeal calls into question how responsible others are for returning property someone else may have negligently misplaced. Finders Keepers in America may very well be dead in the ever-present, always evolving, increasing in power police state.

We spoke with an Uber driver about lost items. He said it happens frequently but added Uber has a way of connecting drivers with riders who’ve lost or misplaced their possessions.

He told us about a garage door opener he found this week in his car. He used the system to contact the owner and let her know she’d left her opener in his car. She didn’t respond to the messages, so on his own dime, he drove to the home where he picked her up and knocked on the door.

Luckily, for the driver, cops weren’t waiting there to bust him for returning it.

Jack Burns is an educator, journalist, investigative reporter, and advocate of natural medicine