[Updated at 8:45 a.m. ET Friday] Here's how a simple act of kindness can become a worldwide inspiration and a public relations bonanza for the New York Police Department.
In a case of being in the right place at the right time, a tourist from Arizona, who happens to work in law enforcement herself, was visiting New York City earlier this month when she noticed a man without shoes asking for change near Times Square.
Jennifer Foster, of Florence, Arizona, sent the following note, along with a picture she took, to the NYPD, which posted it on its Facebook page.
"Right when I was about to approach, one of your officers came up behind him. The officer said, 'I have these size 12 boots for you, they are all-weather. Let's put them on and take care of you.' The officer squatted down on the ground and proceeded to put socks and the new boots on this man. The officer expected NOTHING in return and did not know I was watching. I have been in law enforcement for 17 years. I was never so impressed in my life. I did not get the officer's name. It is important, I think, for all of us to remember the real reason we are in this line of work. The reminder this officer gave to our profession in his presentation of human kindness has not been lost on myself or any of the Arizona law enforcement officials with whom this story has been shared."
That Facebook post has gone viral since it went up Tuesday, with more than 77,000 shares, 322,000 likes and 20,000 comments. Most of those comments, which come from places as far away as Australia and Malaysia, praise the officer for his simple act.
"Angels are everywhere, we just have to see!!!" Helen Hoglund wrote.
"Way to go cop ... God bless," posted Jonathan Brown.
"This action gives me a warm feeling, even here in The Netherlands," said Elbert Donker.
Some of the praise didn't come without digs at New York and its finest.
Does anyone else have stories of kindness from the NYPD? All I've heard from them are acts of the opposite. But I... fb.me/1pQlJojFl—
Jack Rico (@JackRicofficial) November 29, 2012
"I wish more people were like this. This is in NY and would be the last place I would see this type of kindness," Teri Pizzurro wrote.
"It's the first time a policeman made me cry tears of joy. And I think that's true for a lot of us," commented Lola Lloyd.
"I really dont like cops ive been in the situation of being searched and arrested for spitting on the sidewalk but this guy gets some respect from me," said a post from Gavin Roman.
On Thursday, the police officer's identity was revealed: He's Larry DePrimo, 25.
The two-year veteran of the department explained he was on patrol in Times Square on the frigid night of November 14 when he came across a man in bare feet with "blisters ... about the size of my hands."
"My heart went out to this man," DePrimo told CNN. "I just went toward him and asked him if he wanted a pair of socks. But he said, 'No, and God bless you for asking.' "
The officer said he had one word to describe the man's gracious words: "inspiring."
Inspired himself, DePrimo headed to a nearby Skechers' store and – after asking the man his shoe size – bought winter boots. The store's staff figured out was going on and gave DePrimo an employee discount to help "make the best out of the situation," said assistant manager Jose Cano.
When DePrimo gave away the boots, the man thanked him with a "smile (that) went from ear to ear."
"And again, he said God bless me. And he said be safe."
Still, because this is New York, there were some who consider the officer a victim, taken in by another scam.
"Clever stunt! The (man) is 'parked' at the entrance of a shoe shop. He got like 10 pairs that day," commented Louis Zehmke.
"This guy is only barefoot as a begging strategy," wrote David Levy. "I've been seeing him around midtown for years. I've even witnessed someone buy him slippers in a freezing day which he promptly put in his shopping cart."
Don't tell that to DePrimo. He carries around the Skechers' receipt in his bulletproof vest as a reminder of the people that he and fellow officers serve.
While the officer admits being taken aback by the generally positive reaction to his gesture, DePrimo said he hopes it inspires others to help strangers in need.
"If it pushes somebody else to go out and do another kind act toward another person, then I am going to sleep well tonight."
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