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. saywhat

    One hears so much of police brutality, racial profiling and such and then this comes along making you feel proud of these folks.
    They have a tough job as it is with drug mafias, gangs, violence and shoddy gun control and do their best. This police officer was not required to do what he did and exhibited a side which is rarely reported.
    I salute him.

    November 29, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. saywhat

    Good morning all.
    One hears so much of police brutality, racial profiling and such and then this comes along making you feel proud of these folks.
    They have a tough job as it is with drug mafias, gangs, violence and shoddy gun control and do their best. This police officer was not required to do what he did and exhibited a side which is rarely reported.
    I salute him.

    November 29, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. S

    I work in mid-town Manhattan and have actually seen this homeless man several times over the last couple of years. He is always shoe-less even in the middle of winter. Two years ago i saw a guy give him new sneakers on a wintery day and later that afternoon he still wasn't wearing them. He's not just homeless, but unfortunely has some type of mental issue.

    November 29, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Mary

    Well.. I once felt sorry for a man who was begging for money in the square in the wintertime and I went and bought him a hat and gloves and gave it to him, only to have him look at his buddies and laugh because he already had a hat and gloves and was begging without them on to elicit sympathy.

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

      So is that when you lost your humanity? If one incident like that could make you lose compassion for all people, you couldn't have had much to begin with. That's happened to me as well. But I've also helped someone and had them start crying and God bless you me to death. You take everyone on a case by case basis...not group everyone together and assume they're all scammers.

      November 30, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. RP

    What the guy does with the shoes/money is not the choice we need to be worried about. We don't know what he will do with it. The choice that is ours is weather or not we will give to someone we see that is in need. Well done officer!

    November 29, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. JaLiza B.

    Who cares if the guy MIGHT have been pulling a stunt? The officer did what should have been done in any situation where a fellow human being appeared to have needed help. Charity should always come from the heart and no one should be without.

    November 29, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. J.C.

    Nicely done. I'm sure there are many more examples of such kindness that are never noticed and go unheralded. Police are good people, generally speaking.

    November 29, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Tasha

    To all who thinks the officer was scammed or it was a photo op:
    1) Don't judge until you're in that homeless man's shoes (no pun intended), even if he sold what he had before maybe that night he really needed those shoes, and "if" he did sell what he "may" have received prior maybe he sold for food or something more pressing at the time.
    2) If it was a photo op for the officer he DID NOT have to buy $75 (and I read in another article they were actually $100 and the store manager gave him his discount) shoes, he could have purchased something a lot cheaper, not all weather shoes. Annnddd he did not have to kneel and help the man (homeless) put them (socks and shoes) on his feet, he could have just given him the bag while smiling for the camera. STOP BEING DEBBIE DOWNERS!!!

    November 29, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • longtooth

      Tasha, some folks just can't stand the idea of someone doing something nice. I agree with you 100%. The main thing is, this young man did something from the goodness of his heart, and made us all feel a little bit better.

      November 29, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Still a Believer

      Tasha .... it is very sad we've allowed ourselves to become such a cynical society but I agree with you. Instead of being sarcastic and caustic we should all applaud this kind of behavior in the hopes it inspires others to do the same. Maybe, just maybe it will start a new trend and the cynical side will disappear. Three cheers for the officer who has managed, in one gesture, to renew the faith of many in our fellow man.

      November 29, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dogbreath

    Remember "Groundhog Day"? Trapped in a repeating cycle of living the the same day over and over, Bill Murray tries to help out an old homeless man who is freezing and starving. But no matter how hard he tries to help (getting him indoors, hot food, even hospital care), the poor old guy dies each night. It takes him awhile to realize there's nothing he can do to save him.

    Maybe this guy on the street won't wear the shoes, or even appreciate the help he's gotten. But that doesn't make the officer's efforts any less meaningful. All we can ever do to help our fellow humans is try.

    November 29, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Dude

    Kudos to the good cop. Of course, if the officer sees the same homeless guy using the shoe-less routine again, he should arrest the guy for theft by deception or whatever con-artists are changed with in N.Y. Then the homeless guy will receive food, shelter, and a warm place to sleep while his mental state and criminality are assessed.

    November 29, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. JORGE WASHINSEN

    Whether it was a scam or kindness it was the right message. No skin off anyone's nose.

    November 29, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. ART

    Great story but I can assure you this is not typical of NY city cops, they are rude crude and nasty.

    November 29, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sue

      Only if you're a criminal, Art.

      November 29, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      Sue
      Only if you're a criminal, Art.
      ----------–
      Or a law abiding person.

      November 30, 2012 at 5:24 am | Report abuse |
  13. Fiona

    Yes, the bare feet put on display are a stunt to get more handouts (very like the old sit-on-one-leg trick), but the point of this story is someone who has probably seen it all before - a veteran cop - still felt the need to do something to make this guy warm. What the panhandler does with the boots is his business. Sometimes you do things just to keep your own soul alive.

    November 29, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    There ya go. The mans plight ran hand in hand with the phrase "public safety" This cop set the stage for a lot of rookies across the country, that think the job is all cops and robbers.

    November 29, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Ray

    It's really good to know there is at least one NYPD cop who is humane...I have seen NY cops being so arrogant, edgy and plainly power tripper....

    November 29, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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