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Editor’s note: On May 28, The Canadian Press erroneously reported about a photo of a Halifax police talking with a panhandler that became widely distributed on social media. There were also some references to him as a panhandler in a May 27 story. In fact the man the officer was speaking with was a busker. The story below corrects the error.
The post has received over 1,000 reactions on Facebook and has been shared and retweeted hundreds of times – a surprising response to what community officer Const. Shawn Currie says was just another day on the job.
Totally awesome to see! #haligonia #halifax_police pic.twitter.com/utZd4dnrWS
— Bruno Baurin (@BrunoBaurin) May 26, 2016
“It’s a little overwhelming that it happens for something that’s just everyday,” Currie said in an interview Friday. “A big part of my job is to get to know everybody … their lives, their families, and get to know their good days and bad days.”
Federal worker Bruno Baurin says he was so moved by the scene as he strolled past on Thursday that he stopped in his tracks and turned around to snap a photo.
Baurin posted the photo to social media, where users responded with enthusiastic approval for the street-level policing.
“Every once in a while you see an act of compassion which overwhelms you,” Facebook user Jo-Anne Himmelman wrote. “This photo shows how just two people can disprove the negativity in the world today. Just think how much better the world would be if we could all communicate this way.”
“Compassion, empathy and understanding,” Nicole Pettipas wrote. “As essential to good policing as kevlar and weapons.”
Currie says he’s known the busker seen in the photo for nine years. The violinist is a fixture of Spring Garden Road, delighting pedestrians with the classics in exchange for spare coins almost every day.
Currie says when he came upon the man on Thursday, he was doing yoga to prepare for his performance. Rather than interrupt his artistic process, the office sat on the sidewalk and for a half-hour long conversation.
The outpouring of online appreciation for the photo took Currie by surprise, but the officer is no stranger to social media celebrity.
— Halifax_Police (@HfxRegPolice) July 5, 2015
“I want people just to realize how approachable police are. How human we are,” Currie said. “I think it makes me more compassionate, more understanding. And it makes me able to deal with the bad situations and get through it with the help of others and while helping others.”
Halifax police Insp. Lindsay Hernden said in an interview earlier this month that police have a close relationship with many of the panhandlers in the downtown area and know they are on the streets for a variety of reasons – from mental health and addiction problems to homelessness and the need to supplement their incomes.