Carbondale, Illinois – A police officer was suspended after he was caught attempting to sell mugs that featured a photo of a local homeless man passed out on the ground. While profiting off of the misfortune of others is nothing new, it sets a dangerous precedent when the profiteer is someone who is supposed to "protect and serve" the public.
Appearing on the mug was a photo of a man whose hair was in dreadlocks. He was passed out asleep on a log, with a small seemingly empty baggie beside him. The implication was that the man got drunk and became incapacitated—so much so he was likely unaware someone was taking his photo. Also unclear is who exactly took the photo. But what is known is that the man, known as “Tanner,” is a local fixture around the town of Carbondale.
The unnamed officer’s actions are now the subject of an internal investigation. He has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome. We at TFTP interviewed a few people and asked what people thought of the mug and the way it was supposedly taken. The people we interviewed were outraged someone would attempt to profit off of the socioeconomic status of others.
”Whoever took that picture of the drug addicted homeless man is just a dick,” said Jennifer H. “That guy probably had no idea his picture was being taken and if someone is making money off of his image, that person should give a large share of the profits to the man so he can hopefully get the help he needs.”
After we told her the person who is attempting to profit from the sale of the mugs is believed to be a police officer, Jennifer said, “That makes him an even bigger dick!” She told us the scene reminded her of Antoine Dodson’s news broadcast interview, which the Gregory Brothers took and auto-tuned into a viral hit. While the public reveled in the mockery of a very real attempted rape scenario, Dodson was able to profit from his interview going viral, earning enough money as he said, “to move my family from the projects.” The Gregory brothers split the earnings 50/50 with Dodson who later made several appearances on television shows.
The story of the officer who was apparently attempting to profit off of a homeless man was first reported by the Southern Illinoisan with several people commenting both for and against the officer’s actions.
To the cop apologist, police seemingly can do no wrong. A comment left by “Cato the Youngest” wrote, "A Carbondale citizen was selling coffee mugs with a photo taken in the public space. What is a problem here?" Another comment left by IRB204 said, "I agree it is insensitive but nothing the officer should be fired for."
While it may be true that no crime was committed, the sad reality was not lost on others who took a more judgmental view. Gregg Todd wrote, "Cruel. A Carbondale cop is being investigated for selling mugs featuring a troubled citizen who appears intoxicated. Someone who treats homeless and troubled people this way should not be a cop. In the meantime, the cop is getting a vacation at taxpayer expense."
According to a report from SILTV, the Carbondale Police Department is considering disciplinary procedures and "CPD says they take these matters seriously and claim if found to be valid, may lead to disciplinary measures in accordance with the City and Department Policies and Procedures."
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The identity of the reportedly mentally-ill alcoholic man is Jason Tanner. His identity was ascertained from comments gathered on the "
A Carbondale police officer is selling coffee mugs with Tanner’s picture on them.
" target="_blank" rel="noopener">WTF? Carbondale" Facebook page. Many of those who know Tanner had a lot to say about the insensitive actions of the Carbondale police officer. Chelsea Houston commented:
Are they using that money to pay for the tickets they continue to give this poor man? Probably not. Let’s exploit a mentally disabled alcoholic man for profit though. Nice job Carbondale Police Department... I also watched them not let him have his shirt back once after ripping it off of him and giving him a fine when they know he is harmless. Regardless, he is mentally disabled and doesn’t deserve to be made into a joke.
After having to defend herself from cop apologists and others who attempted to characterize Tanner as an “anarchist” and a “protagonist,” and someone who didn’t have a mental illness, Houston concluded:
Again, that’s fine, but as someone that works with people with disabilities and have witnessed alcohol addiction very personally, I find this unacceptable for the local police to get away with. Besides, fuck the Carbondale police. Tanner’s not a joke, that’s my point. He’s a solid dude that means well and deserves to be treated better than he is in his town. Okay, the cops have helped him. I have also witnessed a lot of the opposite when I was the assistant managers at RollNUp here in town. He’s a goofy dude but fuck, he still deserves respect. This isn’t respected to me. I respect everyone else’s opinion totally, personally I think it’s cruel.
No police officer should ever be allowed to profit off of the misfortune of those he is sworn to protect and serve, which also includes protecting the man’s identity from people who may want to profit from his visage. In this case, the man who is supposedly employed to protect the homeless man is actually exploiting him—all for the sake of a few laughs and a fistful of dollars. Here is the image in question:
Instead of making a mockery of the man’s current state, the police officer could have set up a GoFundMe page and sold mugs with uplifting messages to give or share the profits with the man so he could get the kind of help he needs to improve his life.
If you would like to contact the Carbondale Police Department to share your opinion on this anonymous officer, call 618-457-3200 or visit the department's Facebook page.