NYPD officer Lawrence Deprimo is quite the celebrity right now. A lady visiting New York from Phoenix caught him on camera putting a pair of socks and new water proof boots on a homeless man, who had no shoes in this late November weather. As it turns out, the photographer grew up in a law enforcement family. Her dad was a 32 year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department. There are several things that stand out to me about this event that has gone viral thanks to facebook and other social media outlets.
First of all Deprimo is 25 years old. Enough said. I am impressed. Secondly I am impressed that he would dish out $75.00 of his own money to buy the man in need a pair of really nice boots. But most importantly this event has triggered my memory. I have been a law enforcement chaplain almost 23 years. I have forgotten so many things that have happened, but events like this jar the memory bank. Expressing compassion to people in need is an everyday event for the officers I have served for over 2 decades. Deprimo’s actions are causing my mind to wonder back to the past…
I am thinking about the state trooper that called me to the scene of a fatality crash where a man had driven up on the scene. His wife was killed in the crash. The trooper called me specifically, so I could take the man home safely and in turn assist in notifying his son of his mother’s death. The trooper truly cared about that man’s well being in such an awful situation.
And I think about the officer that was called to investigate a suspicious individual. As it turns out, the person in question was a homeless man coming through Granbury on a freezing cold day. After going through the protocol of checking the man to make sure he was not wanted criminally, the officer asked him when he had eaten last. It had been over 24 hours… Once again I was called to assist, because an officer cared. (And the owner of my favorite café to dine for breakfast would not let me pay for that man’s meal that cold morning.)
And then there was the man who had his tent slashed by a group of intoxicated men at a campground on Thanksgiving night 4 years ago. That tent was his only source of shelter from the elements as he traveled cross country on a bike. He too was called in by a member of the public as a “suspicious subject.” After interviewing him, the officers called me out to see if we could purchase a tent for the guy. They did it because they cared.
I suppose my favorite call out in recent years involved an encounter with two elderly brothers that were panhandling in the Walmart parking lot. Some good citizen called the police, so a young female officer was dispatched to investigate. She found two older men who were very limited physically. It was very hot that day and they were desperate need. I used church funds to fill their car with gas and buy lunch at Wendy’s. But the officer I was working with felt that was not sufficient. I joined her at Walmart in buying food supplies for them that they could take on the road. We got some odd stares from other customers. I figured another good citizen would call the chief to complain that an officer was doing her personal grocery shopping with a man old enough to be her father in Walmart while on duty! She too used personal funds to make sure those men were fed well past the day that we helped them.
So….thanks Officer Deprimo. You have jogged my memory. And my memory needed to be exercised today. I needed to be reminded that I serve with a group of officers that truly are compassionate. And I for that I am grateful. I serve with those that reach out to people without shoes and socks everyday...