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Cop responds to shoplifting report with help, not handcuffs

LONDON, Ky. -- It started with a complaint about a shoplifter, but ended with an act of kindness.

When police officer Justin Roby was called to a supermarket in London, Kentucky, last month, he decided what a shoplifting suspect needed was a helping hand -- not handcuffs.

"As a police officer, it's not black and white for us," Roby told CBS affiliate WKYT-TV in Lexington. "There's a lot of gray. And you have to cipher through everything and you really need to figure out the whole story."

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London, Kentucky police officer Justin Roby. WKYT-TV

The suspect was a single father who had fallen on hard times, Roby said. The man was caught stealing baby formula for his six-month-old son, who was with him at the time.

A store official said he didn't want to press charges, and Roby agreed.

"Me citing him for court wouldn't have done any good for him," he said. "He's already short on money, can't afford formula, so me making him appear in court, he's still not going to have any food for that baby."

But what Roby did next showed the shoplifter what it truly means "to protect and serve." He bought some formula himself, giving it to the man for his baby.

"You put yourself in the situations," he said. "I think, 'Well, what if me and my son, what if this was us?"

Roby also gave the man a message, telling him there were people and organizations -- including the police department -- available to help those in need.

Roby said there was nothing special about what he did and that his fellow officers do selfless acts -- changing tires, giving people rides to homeless shelters -- every day. It's just not always seen.

"I think when [a lot of people] look at us, they see just the uniform and just the car, just the tools that we have on our belt," Roby said. "But behind the uniform, I'm a human being and I'm a person out in this community just like any of them. I have a little boy. I'm a father just like that gentleman was."

As Roby put it, "We're not these robot. There's a human behind the badge."

Alabama cop pays for shoplifter's eggs

And it's not the first recent case of a police officer helping a suspected shoplifter.

In December, a police officer in Tarrant, Alabama was called to a Dollar General store after a woman allegedly tried to steal three eggs.

Instead of arresting Helen Johnson, officer William Stacy bought her a dozen eggs. Johnson later said she had been trying to feed her two grandchildren, and that she felt "blessed" by what the officer did.

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