A police officer with a "fondness for the underdog" is being praised by local homeless advocates for, they say, truly living up to the title of 'public servant.'
Staff Sergeant Lori Osborn was out on a routine patrol Tuesday night, when Oklahoma City police dispatch put out a call regarding a family needing help at a metro hotel.
Sgt. Osborn is part of the department's Crisis Intervention Team. She says, even though that was not her assignment on Tuesday, something told her she needed to respond to the call.
Upon her arrival at the Days Inn, at N.W. 39th and May Avenue, she discovered her intuition was right.
"The first thing that I thought of," said Sgt. Osborn, "is that these people are in a bad way."
The Ryan family was out in the parking lot, and they explained their plight to Osborn.
"[They] said this is all we had, we were looking forward to having a hotel for a week, kind of regroup...and now we literally have nothing," related Osborn, "and it just broke my heart."
Mark and Kassandra Ryan told Sgt. Osborn that they and their two children had been living out of their car for three weeks. Social workers at City Rescue Mission determined the shelter was not the appropriate place for them, but sought help from the Homeless Alliance, which agreed to put them up at a local hotel.
The family also has a dog. They say it is a mental illness service dog, and hotel staff turned them away when they couldn't provide proof of the dog's qualifications.
"I don't have to be blind or crippled to need a service dog," Kassandra Ryan stated.
Believing the hotel's actions to be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Ryans called the police.
Sgt. Osborn's arrival did not cause the hotel to change its position, so she took a report on the incident and told the family she needed to run an errand but would be right back.
"Her errand was to run to the ATM and give us $60," said a tearful Kassandra Ryan, "and that was the most touching thing out of all of that.
The family was able to use that money to pay for a night's stay at a different hotel where the dog was allowed.
"I just couldn't believe it," said Mark Ryan, "She did her job, and then she went beyond her job."
Sgt. Osborn brushes aside such praise. She said she only did what she and all officers are trained to do -- protect and serve.
"I honestly don't think that there's an officer out there that I work with that wouldn't have done the exact same thing," said Osborn, matter-of-factly, "we do it all the time."
When the Homeless Alliance offered to repay Osborn the following morning, she politely declined, saying she was just happy to help.
"It made my day," said Sgt. Osborn, "It truly made my day...best money I've ever spent."
Officials with the Homeless Alliance said they are working with the hotel to resolve the issue, and they issued the following statement regarding the actions of Oklahoma City police:
"In a survey of 320 un-sheltered, chronically homeless people in May of this year, respondents noted more than 1,100 contacts with Oklahoma City Police Officers in the previous 6 months. With that level of interaction on a daily basis, the Homeless Alliance is very aware of the work the police do with people in direst need. Officer Osborn's compassion and caring for the family is deeply moving and profoundly touching. It is also exactly what we would expect from the Oklahoma City Police Department. From the Chief right down to the rawest rookie, they consistently demonstrate to us they are public servants in the truest sense of the words."