I love that you answered the question completely and entirely unlike OP. First let me address a couple of things. You're extrodinarly bias here. I wouldn't want to be on your beat. You saying I could of avoided those problems by just not drinking in public is like me saying you can avoid arresting those people by not being a police officer. I strongly urge you to reconsider what you're saying here and think about the person. There are 4th amendment violations all over your answer. Though I appreciate your honesty this is the answer OP didn't want to give because it reeks of discrimination. However, honesty is better than skirting the issues because education is the cornerstone of change.
"We have several homeless people, both with mental/physical health issues that basically make them permanently homeless, that don't drink, don't harass people". Awesome this is fantastic of you. Alcoholism and drug abuse is a mental issue too. Did you know its in the DSM V, addtionally, you don't think anyone of sound mind chooses being homeless do you? Okay I admit there are actually a few that love the lifestyle completely sober and of sound mind but its a rarity. I am going to say 99 percent of your alcoholics and drug addicts have mental issues. Depression, anxiety, or what not.
Personally, I've never harassed anyone panhandling nor have I cat called. I've flown signs and what not. The "public" was my house. If I pitch a tent when the shelters full, guess who is coming along to my " not public" but in public home. You are, guess whose getting cited now for illegally camping, and additonal charges. Can't camp by the river, can't camp in the city, outside of the city can't camp in public parks or national parks. Can camp on blm land but then I am in the middle of nowhere and have no access to services. With or without tent busted, over and over again.
Zero tolerance but only for the homeless see what you did there. Out right blatant discrimination of a protected popuplation. If we had money we'd all have civil rights attorney to go after a cop that does this to people.
I live in a tourist town. People drink in public here all the time, non-homeless don't get classified, they get told to dump it or igonred. Casinos can get permits and have " beer gardens" and have 10 blocks or so where people can drink. Homeless, now you got probable cause, and I am getting a full stop search. Nobody else is getting searched but I am now. Or I should say we are as a group. Laying on a sidewalk is a full stop. We have 2 areas where I live where the homeless can congregate without issue. Neither allow drinking, or smoking because of federal law. Not to mention if all of us went there, last count here was some 1200 strong. It'd be over crowded and we'd be asked to leave or not allowed to enter.
We live in a world where everyone should have equal rights and access to due process. Here, you've openly admitted to violating our rights. Its sad but true. I am not going to defend all my actions as a homeless person either. I'll be honest poverty, being cold, and having habits leads to some out right criminal behavior. However, without access to proper services, we do what we do to survive. One other thing, 99 percent you're an American cop, so before you start defending what you just said, realize this is a non issue in most European countries so there is a better way.