The law is the law, except when common sense intervenes

Sometimes, you just have to use a little common sense when it comes to observing the law. A couple of stories in the news today provide some guidance.

In Portsmouth, N.H., Officer Michael Kotsonis responded to a shoplifting report at a grocery store the other day. A woman had been caught stealing cake mix.

Easy decision. She broke the law. Period. Haul her in. The law is the law.

Then the police officer found out the woman needed to make a cake for her son’s birthday, but couldn’t afford the cake mix.

“I’m not going to take away a kid’s birthday cake,” he tells the Portsmouth Herald. “I ended up bringing it back to the mother.”

And he paid the store for the cake mix.

“If you can help someone out,” he said, “you do.”

Gov. Mark Dayton used that sort of common sense this week when he unraveled a public relations disaster at the state’s Department of Corrections.

Therapist Shelley Koski, who works for the Minnesota Department of Corrections, is one of the few American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health volunteers in the country. The law allows her to take time off for disaster work. But when she wanted to take a few days to help the Red Cross train people helping veterans and their families in crisis, her boss said “no” because veteran suicide — or training for it — doesn’t qualify as a disaster.

“The Department of Corrections follows the law,” spokeswoman Sarah Latuseck told the Star Tribune.

The law is the law.

Yesterday, Gov. Dayton overruled his commissioner, issuing an executive order allowing Koski to use her paid leave for the effort.

“I can’t believe there was pushback against this in the first place, but I would have continued to do it on my own time no matter what,” she tells the Star Tribune. “What we are doing with veterans and their families is important and this is recognition of that.”

The law is the law, but sometimes common sense has to take the cake.