[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
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
"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."
Kudos to this young officer!! This is the way should all treat each other. You see someone hurting and in need & you do what you can to help.
A friend of mine took his entire family to NYC for the Thanksgiving holiday. None of them had ever been there before & he was not sure what to expect, especially because of the recent devstation with Sandy. He was very impressed with the kindness and generostiy of everyone they came in contact with. Several native New Yorkers moved aside at the Macy's parade so that his small grandchildren could be in front to see the parade. I think that gesture touched his heart most of all. They plan to go back next year!
I think it's fabulous.
Whether or not the shoeless man is a scammer, the officer's act of kindness and generosity is to be applauded.
Agreed. And I'd bet the officer could see the condition the man's feet were in before he bought the shoes. My guess is that they were in bad shape.
We just started an FB page calling for a public commendation for DePrimo search for it you'll find it. Doubt I can post the link here.
And the post returns... nevermind :)
A wonderful act of kindness indeed. Is it only in America that prisoners are provided a place to sleep and food but if you are not in prison and cannot afford shelter you are to sleep in the streets? During the last depression society was made up of people who knew what a family unit was. Today society has changed, definitely.
Thomas E. Shafovaloff
It does not matter than there is a possibility of a scam. The officer did what he felt in his heart was right, and there is no shame in that. I have had some issues with out of control police officers in the past, but I have also been helped at crucial times by the same. Just like everything else, you have your good and your bad. Kudos to this officer for being one of the good.
Good job for him to clothe the homeless but I can't give then money. Here in San Antonio we have many disabled workers that show up to work for a little more than minimum wage everyday. Then we have grown men and women asking for a dollar right outside. They show us that it can be done, you just have to do it.
How sad for people to think this is a scan. If it is, which I seriously doubt, I don't want to know. I know that in the really hard times I have had in my life, I know there are angels all around us, we just don't know until they are standing beside us. I thank God every day for his carrying me in times of extreme bad things and those he has on earth to come up beside us. As a Native American, the way I feel is that even if this man put shoes in his cart to sell for food, he is not standing out in the cold for nothing. It just means that is what he needed then. Another Native medicine man gave a priceless family heirloom to a friend who was sad and troubled and the next day he saw it in a pawn shop window. At first he was angry, then realized that if that is what she needed to help her right then, then he had done his best to be good to someone.
I hear you – most homeless people have mental health issues as well. Most homeless people obviously don t get much love.
As a former officer myself, who's been blessed to have had a few opportunities over the years to offer similar acts of kindness, I'm glad to see my brother in blue demonstrating how the vast majority of officers out there are the good guys, trying to do the right thing. It's usually only the officers who made a bad decision getting any press, despite the tens of thousands of officers doing a good job every day. Thanks, Officer DePrimo, for showing our good side! Stay safe, brother!
That's really, really great to see. I wish more cops were like this.
People....Not just cops. Everyone has the option to do good deeds. It's just sad that they decide to ignore it or put it off as a scam. Thats the way selfish humans deal with not making that effort to be kind to one another.
Going out on a limb here – I'm guessing you deserve this treatment.
You've been Maced, Tasered, beaten, manhandled, thrown in jail, and generally treated like hell by cops your entire life and have NEVER done anything to deserve it... why do I doubt that?
I have NEVER been a "victim" to the kind of treatment you have for some reason. I'm not saying
It doesn't happen to innocent people, I'm just saying that if it has happened
To you time and again, I would consider that notion that you are the
I'd hope the variations in interactions with the police aren't straight along racial lines. Many police view people of color as the enemy. I think the folks here who "never had any issue with the nice policemen" maybe share European ancestry and truly do not understand.
Sometimes it's very true Mike...:)
Its seems sometimes its very few and far between to be as human as this one. good on you mate good on you! I hope we hear more of these moments.
I'm a volunteer EMT and have seen many acts of generosity on the part of firefighters and cops..people just see the uniforms but if they knew the decency and kindness of many of these public servants, they'd be overwhelmed. We're truly fortunate to have them in our community.
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