The photo of a New York City cop buying a pair of boots for a barefoot homeless man came across my Facebook timeline Tuesday night as I was writing the story on Cook County State Attorney Anita Alvarez fighting to keep the Illinois eavesdropping law alive.
It caught my eye and quickly read it, taking a quick break from my writing.
I was impressed that anybody would do that, especially a cop, but I was also a little skeptical. Especially considering the number of times people get burned on the internet with stories or photos or videos that appear too good to be true.
Usually I try to check out the veracity of a story before sharing it with my readers, but I didn’t have time to do so that night, so I just shared it with the following words: “Here’s a very positive story regarding NYPD. I hope it’s true.”
The photo ended up receiving more than 60 likes, 33 shares and 44 comments with several of my Facebook friends accusing the NYPD of staging the shot.
By Wednesday evening, after the photo and accompanying story had gone viral, racking up more than 1.6 million views, 275,000 likes and 16,000 comments, the New York Times confirmed that it was not staged.
The cop’s name is Lawrence Deprimo and he’s only been on the force for two years. He apparently had no idea he was being photographed.
According to the New York Times:
Officer Deprimo, 25, who joined the department in 2010 and lives with his parents on Long Island, was shocked at the attention. He was not warned before the photo went online; the department had not learned which officer was in the picture until hours later.
The officer, normally assigned to the Sixth Precinct in the West Village, readily recalled the encounter. “It was freezing out and you could see the blisters on the man’s feet,” he said in an interview. “I had two pairs of socks and I was still cold.” They started talking; he found out the man’s shoe size: 12.
As the man walked slowly down Seventh Avenue on his heels, Officer Deprimo went into a Skechers shoe store at about 9:30 p.m. “We were just kind of shocked,” said Jose Cano, 28, a manager working at the store that night. “Most of us are New Yorkers and we just kind of pass by that kind of thing. Especially in this neighborhood.”
Mr. Cano volunteered to give the officer his employee discount to bring down the regular $100 price of the all-weather boots to a little more than $75. The officer has kept the receipt in his vest since then, he said, “to remind me that sometimes people have it worse.”
The photo was taken by Jennifer Foster, a civilian communications director for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona. She said the moment resonated for personal reasons: She remembered as a young girl seeing her father, a 32-year veteran of the Phoenix police force, buy food for a homeless man.
Deprimo showed great compassion and character through his actions, traits that we rarely get to see among police officers.
But it’s obvious from the response this photo received that those traits generate tons of respect from the population at large; the kind of respect all cops should strive for.
Unfortunately, too many cops have been going about earning respect the wrong way.