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Public outcry over fountain theft citation is justified

This letter is in response to Nate Smith’s recent article “The other, other side of the coin,” and Chief Brandon Standley’s comments in the recent Examiner article concerning Ms. Romine’s recent theft charge. From reading both articles, it is clear to me that the chief and Nate have both entirely missed the reason why the public finds the “summons” Ms. Romine received repugnant. Ms. Romine is developmentally disabled and destitute. It’s not that the public doesn’t think it was criminal behavior to steal from the fountain, nor does the public believe lying to police is acceptable from the average citizen. But the point is Ms. Romine is not “average.” By definition alone, Ms. Romine is “below” average.

The public expects law enforcement to uphold the law. However, they also can use discretion. What this means is that they are not required to arrest or cite every violation of the law they happen to witness. A fact, for which, anyone who has received a “warning” instead of a “traffic citation” are very grateful. Public expectation is that law enforcement will exercise this discretion wisely. We also expect that they are trained in sensitivity and have the ability to recognize unusual situations, including someone’s less than average ability to make sound judgments, which might in turn lead them to steal or lie. After checking her record and conversing with her for a few minutes, they should have been able to glean enough information to respond to the situation without issuing a summons. The correct and compassionate response, regardless of her deception (which was probably driven by hunger), would have been to give her a warning and help her in any way they reasonably could. If she did it again, the summons would have been appropriate.

Nate Smith comments, “At no point was she ever arrested in this case, no one ever threatened to take her to jail.” That is completely false. Petty theft is a misdemeanor of the 1st degree and carries with it a potential jail sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The threat is real. Apparently, even Ms. Romine knew that. Most first time petty theft offenders receive a sentence of three days in jail and a $550 fine in Bellefontaine Municipal Court.

Nate Smith further comments, “Ms. Romine is not wrong to try and parlay this saga into years’ worth of economic security.” Mr. Smith, are you suggesting that she has the sophistication it requires to raise the public outcry her “summons” has caused and to further turn that into a moneymaking event? When did $14,000 become “years’ worth of economic security.”

Expression of authority not tempered with compassion is the reason why there has been a public outcry. Besides, what do they use the money in the fountain for anyway?

Natalie J. Bahan
Bahan Law, LLC,
Bellefontaine

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