“Is this the crackhouse or the whorehouse?”
It was a rhetorical question, the cop’s way of saying this wasn’t a great part of town.
I was standing on the cement steps with Danae, our youth ministry intern. Two Minneapolis police officers stood in front of us on the porch, banging on the front door with their flashlights.
“Do you have something that doesn’t belong to you?” one of the cops asked when the door creaked open.
Danae’s phone had gone missing during a day of errands. Using the Find my iPhone app we’d traced it to a home in north Minneapolis.
“Do we just knock on the door and ask for it back?” Danae had asked.
“No,” I’d told her, “we call the police and ask them to knock on the door and ask for it back.”
Two girls, probably in their late teens or early twenties, came out of the house. “I can get it for you, no problem.” one said. The girls insisted they’d found the phone at a gas station. They told us they’d tried to find out who it belongs to so they could return it. The officer didn’t restrain his cynicism.
“Right. I bet you were going to bring it down to us first thing in the morning.” the cop sneered. The phone was retrieved from the back seat of their car and returned to a relieved Danae without incident.
They say no good deed goes unpunished. The cop continued to pepper the two young ladies with sarcastic remarks as they returned the phone to its rightful owner.
Before we’d used GPS to track down the phone, I had sent a text message to the number just in case.
“Reward if found. Please reply to arrange return.”
I didn’t know if the girls had seen the message and ignored it, but they had returned it and I wanted to be a man of my word. I pulled out some cash and offered it to the woman who’d given back the phone. The look of disgust was evident on the police officer’s face as he stood beneath the lone street light.
“I appreciate you getting her phone back.” I told her. “I want to say thank you for sparing her a lot of hassle and expense.”
“Oh, no… I can’t take that.” she said, eyeing the incredulous cop out of the corner of her eye.
“Really. I’m grateful. Please.” I implored.
She relented, and as the money changed hands the cop huffed in disgust and shook his head, turning toward his patrol car.
“You just paid her for stealing from you.” he said, as I walked back toward my vehicle.
“She gave it back. She said she tried to find its owner. I’m thankful.”
“She’s playing you.” the cop said, “People like that aren’t going to do the right thing.”
His disdain was evident, and concerning. I’ve known enough cops to understand how the job challenges your faith in humanity. And I know I’m naive, I spend most of my time helping people achieve the best version of themselves, not policing them at their worst. But still, his inability to entertain the idea that maybe, just maybe, she had been telling the truth really bothered me.
“Look, I really appreciate your help. And I’m really grateful you guys do what you do.” I said. “You can believe what you want, but if it costs me twenty bucks to keep my faith in humanity, that’s money well spent.”
For a brief moment, he considered it. Perhaps I had a point, and maybe I was about to see the Grinch’s heart grow three sizes that day.
The unimpressed cop climbed into his squad car to fill out his report, no doubt detailing the “ill-intentioned” girls that had returned the phone.
I got back in my car, Danae was checking her phone.
“They didn’t get the text about the reward.” she said. The message was still unread. “But look…”
She showed me a text message, sent earlier that afternoon to her mother’s cell phone.
“Just found this phone at a gas station. Who does it belong to?”
My faith in humanity cost me twenty dollars that night, and it was worth every penny.