On a chilly mid-November night, a 25-year old New York City cop named Lawrence DePrimo bought a $75 pair boots for a homeless man. Jennifer Foster, a tourist from Arizona, snapped a photo and overheard what DePrimo, who lives on Long Island with his parents, said to the man. Foster, a communications (PR) officer in the Pinal County sheriff’s office, told the NYPD, “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.’ 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.”
Foster posted the photo on Facebook. It has since been shared almost a hundred thousand times and garnered more than 16,000 comments. And the NYPD seized upon the photo, seeing it not only as a random act of kindness by one of its own, but as a tremendous public relations opportunity. DePrimo spent this week on the talk show circuit, making several TV appearances with Foster and doing interviews with the radio and print media. The New York Times reports the police commissioner gave DePrimo a pair of cufflinks to acknowledge his act of kindness, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg tweeted that the officer’s story is an “an important reminder to give back this holiday season.”
Those of us in the PR field understand that a picture tells a story in ways words cannot. I blogged about this topic this summer. We also know that the public relations value of this photo doesn’t have to end with this week’s news; it can be “re-purposed” by the NYPD and others to show the world that human beings are essentially good-hearted, and that many (most? all?) cops truly care about the people they serve.
I’m challenging my readers to suggest how this photo might be re-purposed to continue to reinforce that sentiment. Your thoughts?