Homeless Sign Contest: Texas Officers Suspended for Inappropriate Actions

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A pair of West Texas officers were suspended this week after the Midland Police Department learned they had been taking part in a competition to see which could take away the most cardboard signs from homeless people.

It should be noted than panhandlers holding these signs do not violate any city laws in the area.

Homeless person sign

"The fact that they are making sport out of collecting the personal property of homeless individuals could be seen as them targeting these individuals for discriminatory harassment," said Cassandra Champion, an attorney in the Odessa office of the Texas Civil Rights Project, adding:

"Simply holding a sign is absolutely a protected part of our free speech."

The police department is now under fire for taking so long (two months) to hand out discipline and for that discipline to only constitute a three-day suspension without pay.

The Internal Affairs investigation found the two officers, Derek Hester and Daniel Zoelzer, broke the department's professional standards of conduct.

Police Chief Price Robinson, however, says this was an isolated incident that wasn't worthy of a harsher punishment.

"We want to respect people, no matter who they are  - homeless, whatever," Robinson told The Associated Press. "That situation's been dealt with. Those officers understand."

Hester and Zoelzer, who did not appeal these suspensions, have been with the department approximately two years.