December 4, 2012


Cop's Kindness to Stranger Warmed More Than Feet

Boots: $75. Good Will: Priceless

By Mark Toor

'LIKE YOU GAVE HIM A MILLION DOLLARS': A passer-by's photo of Police Officer Lawrence DePrimo handing a homeless man a pair of boots he bought him on a frigid November night has become a Facebook sensation since the NYPD posted it. 'It was like you gave him a million dollars,' the young officer said of the man's reaction; the positive publicity for the department has been worth much more than that.  

A tourist’s snapshot of an NYPD officer’s spontaneous act of kindness towards a homeless man near Times Square has gone viral, resulting in two tabloid front pages, news stories coast to coast and more than 600,000 “likes” on Facebook.

Jennifer Foster of Florence, Ariz. wrote to the department that she was with her husband Nov. 14 when they saw a shoeless man asking for change. “Right when I was about to approach, one of your officers came up behind him,” she wrote. “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.’

‘Never So Impressed’ by Kindness

“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.”

Ms. Foster used her cell phone to snap a photo of the officer and the homeless man.

“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.” She is a civilian sheriff’s-department employee.

The Police Department posted a photo of the officer on its Facebook page Nov. 27, and he was quickly identified as Lawrence DePrimo, 25, who joined the NYPD in 2010 and is normally assigned to the Sixth Precinct in Greenwich Village.

‘A Very, Very Cold Night’

Mr. DePrimo told his story Nov. 29 after Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly summoned him to Police Headquarters to congratulate him and present him with a pair of cufflinks emblazoned with tiny Commissioner’s badges.

“It was a very, very cold night,” he told reporters. “I was assigned to West 44th St. and Broadway. I was standing there and I heard somebody laughing and joking around and I looked over and somebody was laughing at this elderly gentleman who had no socks on or shoes on or anything.

“I went up to him and I was like, ‘Where are your shoes?’ And he said, ‘It’s okay, Officer, I never had a pair of shoes.’ So I went into a shoe store and I explained to them there’s an elderly gentleman with no socks or shoes on, and I said, ‘Listen, I want to buy a pair of boots, something that’s going to last awhile. I don’t care what the price is.’’’

'Smiling Ear to Ear'

A manager at the Skechers shoe store gave Mr. DePrimo his employee discount, selling him a $100 pair of boots for $75. Mr. DePrimo then bought a pair of insulated socks, went back outside and put the socks and shoes on the man, who declined his offer of coffee and something to eat. “He said, ‘God bless you, I love the police.’ And now, again, when I brought out the shoes he was just smiling ear to ear.”

Of Ms. Foster’s photo, he said, “It’s my surprise. I didn’t see anybody there at that time. I didn’t know somebody was taking a picture. I was just doing my job.”

Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, praised Mr. DePrimo. “Like most NYC police officers, Larry DePrimo joined the force to help people,” Mr. Lynch said in a statement. “His spontaneous act of kindness to a less fortunate man is just one of thousands of random acts of kindness that police officers routinely do to help someone in need. It’s not unusual for an officer to dip into his or her own pocket or to reach out to help secure aid for someone in need. It happens all of the time and it is usually unseen. We commend Larry and all of his brother and sister officers for all the unseen good they do every day.”

Mayor Bloomberg, on his radio show Nov. 30, agreed that Mr. DePrimo’s kindness was not that unusual. “The truth of the matter is cops every day do things that help people,” he said. “That’s what they’re there for. They’re on the ground, they see people with problems. I can’t tell you that everyone always stops, but a lot of them do.”

“This is just something we do every day,” said Mr. DePrimo.