November 29th, 2012
11:40 AM ET

New York cop's act of kindness goes viral

[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.

"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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Filed under: Facebook • New York • Social media • Times Square
soundoff (295 Responses)
  1. chrissy

    Now this story just made me cry! GOD bless this officer!

    November 29, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  2. John

    I sincerely doubt it was a scam but even if it was the story just shows you that there are some really good and caring cops out there so please remember that when you encounter a bad cop he is just one apple and don't let him spoil the barrel. I think Lawrence DePrimo should get a promotion!

    November 29, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Lee-Anne

      I think he is more the norm of most police. There are some bad ones out there, but there are bad people everywhere you go. Most police are great people doing their best to help us. For the clowns that think most police are bad, I am betting you either broke the law at some point (and they don't write the laws, just enforce them) or have never needed them.

      November 29, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • LostinSLC

      Rick, there are almost a million officers in the nation so you are saying 99% of those are essentially bad cops? Wow you are cynical.

      November 29, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  3. joe

    I LOVE THIS STORY BROUGHT TEARS to my eyes. This policeman is a hero and should be given recognition he deserves. What a caring person! He is a inspiration to us all.

    November 29, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. Bob

    Sadly, the people noting that the homeless guy already owns shoes are almost certainly correct. It's generally better to give money to services to support the homeless rather than to the homeless themselves, because you just never know whether it will do them good - or even, in some cases, whether you're being scammed. Sad, but that's reality in the world we have.

    And please, for the love of all that is holy, never give to a homeless person on the subway.

    November 29, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      It makes me sad, too, but that's life.

      When I give a gift to someone in need, that's a gift. When I give a gift to a person who is lying to me in order to convince me to give them a gift, then that's not a gift, it's a scam. Sadly, having worked with the homeless, the breakdown is about 50/50 - half of the people you see begging are really unable to care for themselves, half are scammers. And the ones that are most sympathetic looking? They're generally the scammers. (The ones really in need aren't "with it" enough to present an appealing picture.)

      And you're right that most of NY's homeless population is mentally ill - that's why you should donate to organizations that can help them get mental health care. It may not make you feel as happy - you might not get the warm fuzzies that gift-giving provides - but it will do way more good.

      November 29, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave Bartlett

      "Sadly, the people noting that the homeless guy already owns shoes are almost certainly correct. It's generally better to give money to services to support the homeless rather than to the homeless themselves, because you just never know whether it will do them good – or even, in some cases, whether you're being scammed."

      And see half of the money or more go into the pockets of the "services" and the people they employ (with the exception of the Salvation Army – the Sallies get my money, used clothing, etc., any day of the week). I'd much rather give a meal, a used coat or shoes or a little cash to an actual person in need. "And Jesus shall answer and say unto them, 'Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.'" (Matthew 25:40) What they do with it is between them and God.

      November 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • neoritter

      There really should be no belittling of the cops actions here. There was nothing wrong with it. He did a good deed. If the homeless guy was scamming the cop then the homeless man is the one we should be chastising.

      November 29, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jagberjib

    I wonder if the cop in question attempted to arrest her for filming/photographing him while he was on duty?

    November 29, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. blogo

    Was this a staged video taped "act of kindness"?

    November 29, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Crooked Bridge

    When cynicism becomes predictable, we are doomed. We are doomed.

    November 29, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. vatoloke

    There IS hope for us humans after all.

    November 29, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Pam

    Scam by the homeless man or not – the officer deserves the praise!
    After all, law enforcement's mantra is "to serve and to protect".
    Just wish more would remember the 'to serve' part!

    November 29, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Stop being so Negative

    To all of the haters.....what are you doing to make the world a better place? Stop hating and go out and do something nice for someone else.

    November 29, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous

      Amen. I love it when most people would rather say, "Oh, he's being scammed, don't give to the homeless." Well, what have you done to contribute to others, instead of only thinking of yourself? America has become so self-absorbed, that it's refreshing to finally see someone, and an officer of the law at that, to give without expecting anything in return. This world has become to frickin' entitled.

      November 29, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JLL

    My husband did something similar when he was a kid. A friend of his at school was very poor and his parent's could not afford to get him new shoes and the shoes he had on were falling apart. My husband's mom had just bought him some new shoes. He took them off and gave them to his friend without even thinking about it. This officer is another one of God's angels. Bless him!

    November 29, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bigger Picture

    It doesn't matter whether the Officer got "scammed" .He did the right thing for the right reason. His Inttention was to be kind and to share-that is powerful and that power is never lost or negated. I wish this spirit would travel to Washington....

    November 29, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Pat Faherty

    When I was 10 years old during a rare family trip to St. Louis, I gave a skinny woman holding a skinny baby in the bus station my entire spending allowance for the trip. My step father berated me saying the woman would spend it on booze and/or drugs and not to feed herself and her child. My mother told him the act was the important thing and not the result and if she ever heard him try to correct one of her children again for an act of kindness he would be left in the bus station himself. It was an extremely rare outburst from my mother but it left a lasting impression on all of us. I am 63 now and I retired early to care for my mother who has dementia.

    November 29, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. John

    Gold Shield for him !!!

    November 29, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Kathleen Mrotzek

    In Detroit, my grandfather was a police officer. I do not no when this occurred, but he passed in 1955 or 6, so sometime prior to that. His name was Lewis Panin. During a brutal Detroit winter he was seen given his policeman's gloves to a woman who did not have any. Apparently someone saw it and it was written up in the paper. Another example, albeit a long time ago, where a policeman took protect and serve to heart. There may be a few bad law enforcement officers in the bunch but I would guess the majority are pretty darn good.

    November 29, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
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