Scores of People Ignore a ‘Homeless’ Boy in This Police Department’s Social Experiment

Do you care enough to be a cop?

Given the times we live in, we prepare for the worst when we see articles about police running social experiments. Thankfully, the New Zealand police weren't up to anything sinister when they hired a child actor to pose as a homeless boy for an ad. It's just a recruitment video.

"Hungry Boy" is part of a series that illustrates different aspects of police work and interaction with vulnerable communities. In this installment, they had a boy pretend to eat out of a public garbage can in central Auckland, and filmed him for over 35 minutes to see if anyone would stop and help him.

The question posed by the ad—"Do you care enough to be a cop?"—is a totally different tone for police recruitment than we're used to seeing, and it threw us off a bit, in a good way.

The stunt is a bit reminiscent of this 2014 campaign from Norway, where a boy sat freezing on a bus-shelter bench. Overall, New Zealand police estimated that about 500 people saw the "homeless" boy on the street, and maybe 10 or so made any effort to help him.

Not a great percentage, but it's a start.

What's odd is that, while passersby were predictably rude while he was scrounging, a few people offered help when he retired to a nearby park bench. We're not clear on the psychology (if any) behind that, but it caught our attention.