A police officer in Laurel, Maryland, is being commended after he paid for the diapers of a mom who attempted to shoplift them from a supermarket for her baby.
When the struggling 20-year-old mother found out she didn’t have enough money to purchase food and diapers for her child on July 22, she decided to steal the diapers from a supermarket and was caught. But Officer Bennett Johns of the Laurel Police Department felt sympathy for the young mother, and instead of arresting her, the rookie officer purchased the two packs of diapers for her himself. She was still issued a criminal citation for the theft.
“Though we often joke that our field trainees are still in diapers, it turns out that rookie Officer Johns was not buying these for himself,” the Laurel Police Department wrote in a Facebook post.
“Though it’s but a snapshot of some of the work your officers are doing daily,” the post continues, “we still wanted to take a moment to thank Officer Johns for not just fairly enforcing the law, but also showing empathy to an innocent child put in a difficult situation.”
Audrey Barnes, City of Laurel Director of Communications, tells PEOPLE that the two packs of diapers that Johns purchased cost $15 in total. The woman’s name has not been released, and she has been referred to advocacy groups who specialize in helping struggling families.
“He is very humble and didn’t do it for the praise, he did it because it was the right thing to do—and we’re so proud of him,” Barnes says of Johns, who has only been on the job for two months. She adds that Laurel police officers do things that go unrecognized every day, and they do it anyway.
“It’s about community policing, it’s not just about when things are tough, you have to establish these relationships every single day,” she continues. “Those children, the younger ones, if we can get them engaged with our officers in a positive way, the better off our community is in the long run.”