A classic ethics question is “Would you steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family?” but, from a law enforcement perspective, the question becomes “Would you allow someone to steal a loaf of bread to feed their family?”
In August 2017, Constable Niran Jeyanesan was met with a similar dilemma. His decision in that moment made more of a difference than he could have possibly imagined.
Niran Jeyanesan caught a teen stealing clothes, but when he learned why, he let him off the hook.
On August 6, 2017, Jeyanesan and one other Toronto police officer were called to a local Walmart to handle a reported theft. An 18-year-old man had stolen a dress shirt, tie, and socks.
Upon talking to the young man, Jeyanesan learned the reason why he was stealing: he had needed the clothes for a job interview.
His father had fallen ill and the family was struggling. The teen hoped that he could help out by getting a job and earning some income of his own.
Upon hearing this, before the teen was taken to the police station for further questioning, Jeyanesan decided to pay for the shirt and tie himself, costing him $40.
When the young man was later released without charge, he found among his possessions a new shirt and tie, according to the Globe and Mail.
“We try to get everybody’s story when we attend calls. Everyone has their own battles that they’re fighting,” Jeyanesan told the Globe and Mail. “It doesn’t excuse them, but behind every action there’s a reason why this person is doing it.”
A few days later, Jeyanesan received word that the teen would be starting a new job thanks to his clothes.
Four days later local news station CP24 received word from Jeyanesan that the young man got the position he was interviewing for.
“He told me he actually wore the shirt and the tie [to the interview],” Jeyanesan told them. “I’m just so happy!”
That wasn’t the only thing worth celebrating though. The man’s father now had a job as well thanks to a few of Jeyanesan’s friends who were willing to help out.
When the story first broke, it went positively viral in a way that Jeyanesan never expected. He didn’t seem to know why it blew up in the first place as he told #HowWeDoIt TPS that he was “just doing the right thing.”
“This person was truly in a situation that needed some help,” he told them. “As police officers, we get to deal with people every day.
“It’s not every day that a negative situation can be made positive [but] I wanted to make that positive.”