Homeless newspaper Street Roots has a new columnist on deck: Portland police officer Robert Pickett.

I think this is an excellent idea. Assuming people actually read the column, it will promote better understanding on both sides of the lines between police, homeless people, and the surrounding community. Plus, Office Pickett is the perfect pick as a writer. He's got a reputation for being intelligent and level-headed. His first column is an insightful look at an everyday police interaction:

"I gotta drink or I’ll be sick!”

It was 9:30 a.m. and Mr. Hendricks was already halfway through a six-pack. I’d found him under the Morrison Bridge approach in the inner southeast industrial district, and he fit perfectly the description of someone who had just committed a “beer run” from a nearby convenience store. His frank admission about why he stole the beer summed up the complex situation brilliantly. ...

Clearly, one of my jobs is to enforce criminal laws, but do I arrest him for this? Do I simply arrange another trip to detox with the knowledge that he’ll be out stealing more beer before the end of the day? What do I tell the convenience store clerk who keeps watching his beer walk out of the store? I’d previously referred him to the county’s in-patient sobering program, but there is a waitlist for that service, and it takes persistence and initiative from the patient, something that Mr. Hendricks had not shown thus far.

This was not the sort of gray-area scenario I expected when first considering a police career.