Larry DiPrimo, a New York City police officer, has made national headlines after he was photographed giving a new pair of boots and socks to a homeless man in Times Square on November 14, 2012. According to the New York Post, Officer DiPrimo recalled that it was a very cold night when he noticed a homeless man sleeping on the sidewalk with no shoes (the New York Post article is available here). Officer DiPrimo stated that the man’s feet were covered in blisters and he knew that he had to do something to help him so he purchased a pair of boots and socks with his own personal funds to give to the man. Officer DiPrimo described the man as a very kind gentlemen who needed help. Unbeknownst to Officer DiPrimo, his actions were being photographed by a tourist who later posted the images on the popular social networking site facebook. Since being posted on facebook the the story has gone viral receiving wide media coverage. The 25 year old DiPrimo, has been overwhelmed by the attention that the story has received, but remains humble.
A story like this not only reminds us to care for the less fortunate, it also highlights the fact that the relationship between law enforcement and citizens doesn’t have to be a negative one. Nevertheless, some groups remain critical of the NYPD following the attention that Officer DiPrimo and the department have received. The Los Angeles Times recently reported some advocacy groups have had a largely bittersweet reaction to the DiPrimo story given the New York Police Department’s history with the homeless (the full article is available here). According to the LA Times, a spokesman for the New York based Coalition for the Homeless, characterized the NYPD’s past treatment of the homeless as “brutal”. Taking it a step further, a spokesman from the group Picture the Homeless added the following “[t]hat picture gives the impression that the whole department is compassionate. It’s not like that.”
While the fact of the matter remains that not all citizen/law enforcement interactions are as cordial as the Officer DiPrimo incident, we should be thankful that there are truly caring law enforcement officers such as him on the force serving our communities. A big step towards improving citizen/law enforcement interactions is simply civility. A not insignificant number of people are sitting in jail at this very minute simply because they mouthed off to law enforcement officers. On the other side of the coin, there are numerous situations that were needlessly escalated by overly aggressive law enforcement officers. At the end of the day it is the law enforcement officers job to do just what the job title describes, they are here to enforce the law. Accordingly, officers issue citations, give speeding tickets and make arrests. Obviously, this creates an adversarial situation between law enforcement who are trying to do their job and the community who want to live their lives and enjoy their liberties.
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