An NYPD police officer's act of kindness on a cold November night in Times Square has won the hearts of thousands online. Officer Lawrence DePrimo was on duty when he ran into a barefooted homeless man and defied the stereotype of the heartless cop.
DePrimo left for a moment and returned with a pair of new winter boots. He knelt beside the man and helped him put them on.
His spontaneous act of kindness has warmed the hearts of hundreds of thousands online.
But for Jennifer Foster, a tourist from Arizona, who works as communications director for the Pinal County Sheriff's Office in Arizona, the act of kindness would have gone unnoticed. According to The New York Times, she snapped a picture of the officer on her cellphone on November 14.
After she returned from vacation, she described the incident in an email to the New York Police Department. A department official emailed her and asked her if she would send the photo. Soon the photo appeared on the NYPD's official Facebook page and Officer DePrimo instantly became hero to thousands.
According to The New York Times, Foster said the sight resonated because it brought back memories of her father, a 32-year veteran of the Phoenix police force, buying food for a homeless man.
She said: “He squatted down, just like this officer."
The New York Times reports that by Wednesday, the photo had been viewed more than 1.6 million times and accumulated over almost 270,000 "Likes," 65,000 shares and over 16,000 comments. Fox News reports that as of Thursday morning, it had received more than 305,000 "Likes."
Officer Lawrence DePrimo and the homeless man
The photo shows the Officer on his knees by the homeless barefooted man, according to The New York Times, on the famous Manhattan 42nd Street.
According to Barbara Chen, a spokeswoman for NYPD who helps to maintain the Facebook page, of the viral photos the police department has had, "This is definitely the most viral."
The New York Times reports that thousands on Facebook have commented on the photo. Reddit also linked to it and many commended the officer's act of kindness.
But some have cast doubt on the genuineness of the act, suggesting it could be a contrived publicity stunt. Others debated whether the officer was an exception to the stereotype of the heartless cop or whether he had shown the stereotype to be false.
According to The New York Times, a commenter on Facebook, said: “I still have a grudge against law enforcement everywhere. But my respects to that fine officer.”
Fast Company comments:
"Cynics may huff and puff that the story amounts to nothing more than an exercise in re-branding law enforcement online-- Jennifer Foster, the tourist who took the shot works as a civil communications director in an Arizona sheriff's office. But maybe it's more than that--strip away the protagonists of the story and you've got a individual act of charity that continues the conversation started in the aftermath of Sandy."
Police Officer DePrimo joined NYPD in 2010. He lives with his parents on Long Island. He is reportedly shocked by the attention, saying it came unexpectedly. NYPD said it took some time to identify which officer of the department was in the picture.
However, DePrimo recalled the incident. He said he was assigned to the Sixth Precinct in the West Village. He said in an interview: "It was freezing out and you could see the blisters on the man’s feet. I had two pairs of socks and I was still cold.” He said he spoke to the man and found that his shoe size was 12.
The New York Times reports DePrimo entered a Skechers shoe store at about 9:30 and bought a pair of winter boots. Jose Cano, 28, a manager at the store recalled DePrimo explaining the situation to him. Cano said: “We were just kind of shocked. Most of us are New Yorkers and we just kind of pass by that kind of thing. Especially in this neighborhood.”
Cano said he offered DePrimo his employee discount. DePrimo bought the boots at $75 instead of $100. DePrimo said he kept the receipt because it reminds him "that sometimes people have it worse."
NYPD could not resist posting the photo in the effort to show to the public a softer side of NYPD, The Daily Mail comments.
DePrimo said he never asked for the name of the man and he has not been located. He said: “He was the most polite gentleman I had met." The officer said the man's face lit up when he saw the boots. According to AP the man told the officer he'd never had a pair of shoes. He said the man "smiled from ear to ear" like he'd been given a million dollars.