The Officer and the Homeless Man

They were the boots viewed round the world.

Early last week, a tourist took a photo of a New York City police officer helping a homeless man put on a pair of boots. The officer, it turns out, purchased the boots for the man after seeing him barefoot on the street. It was a cold night and the man’s feet were badly blistered.

As he knelt before the homeless man to help him put on the new socks and boots, the officer did not know he was being photographed. The tourist, who also worked in law enforcement in her home state of Arizona, sent the photo to the NYPD, who then posted it to their official Facebook page.

Within a day or two, the photo was viewed by millions, and the kind officer was identified as Larry DePrimo, a handsome, 26-year-old who lives on Long Island with his parents. The press couldn’t get enough of him, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly couldn’t get enough of the good press that this one photo bestowed upon the NYPD.

Having worked closely with members of New York City’s homeless population for several years, the public’s response to stories like this is, for me, a joy and a suffering.

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