Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Officer DePrimo Should be Invited to the White House

December 4, 2012 11:11 am 1 comment

New York City police officer Lawrence DePrimo gives a pair of boots to a homeless man.

Every now and then, there is a story which actually happened and could only happen in New York City. On November 14, 2012, a very cold night, while New York City police officer Lawrence DePrimo was on patrol in Times Square, he came across a homeless man who was barefoot sitting on the ground. The officer went into a nearby shoe store, bought a pair of socks and a pair of boots for the homeless man and helped the man put them on his highly infected feet. The scene was witnessed by a tourist who took a picture with his cellphone and posted the picture on the web to be seen by myriads of people.

Officer DePrimo later called his mother to tell her what he had done. He paid $75 from of his own pocket to buy the $100 boots (the store manager was aware of whom the boots were for and gave the officer an employee discount of $25).

The story was covered by all of the media and Officer DePrimo was congratulated by the Mayor and the Police Commissioner. On December 2nd, a Sunday night, the homeless man, Jeffrey Hillman, who had come to New York City about ten years ago and had been living on its streets for most of the time, reappeared on the Upper West Side, sans boots or footwear. A New York Times article by Marc Santora and Alex Vadukul reported Mr. Hillman said, “Those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money…I could lose my life.” What actually happened to the boots in no way detracts from Officer DePrimo’s magnificent generosity and yes, his love for a fellow human being.

Irrespective of all else, I thought it would be wonderful if President Obama invited Officer DePrimo to the White House and had him stay over in the Lincoln Bedroom. I suggest his mom be invited as well, along with a “significant other,” if there is one.

When I was Mayor, we had a huge problem of homeless individuals, men and women. Many of the women had developed the shopping bag syndrome and constantly carried bags of detritus having no use at all. They would not come into the shelters that we provided out of fear. I arranged to have many of the churches and synagogues offer their buildings for use by these women with the City paying them for the costs of energy and providing the beds and blankets with the religious institutions providing the volunteers to care for them through the night.

The problem of taking care of these people who were beset with problems of alcohol and drug addiction and even more difficult mental illness was difficult to say the least. I recall one night at 1:00 a.m., being awakened at Gracie Mansion by a call from a reporter who said he was down at Grand Central talking with an elderly woman who was lying on the floor and he thought I was the only one – as Mayor – who could get her to come to one of our facilities. He asked would I “please come down to Grand Central?”

Of course, I did, driving down at that hour with one of my security detectives. There she was, lying at the door on the ground. As I walked over, I said, “I’m Mayor Koch, and I’d like to help you and take you to one of our homes for a good night’s rest and dinner.” She said, “I know who you are and you can’t make me go.” I replied, “Of course not.” It had to be a voluntary decision on her part. By that time, Jack Krauskopf of the Human Resources Administration had arrived. About a half-hour later, around 2:30 a.m., he said, “go home, Mayor. I’ll take care of it.” I spoke with him the next morning and asked what happened. He said “She wouldn’t go with me, so I called a psychiatrist who lived in Great Neck. He came in, looked at her, asked her some questions, and then wrote a note which he handed to me. The note said she is not capable of making intelligent decisions which meant we could take her against her will.” I didn’t ask him how much the psychiatrist’s fee was.

Dealing with homeless people with their myriad of personal problems has always been a difficult problem for any city. I believe we probably do it better than many other cities. It is very costly; the programs run into the millions of dollars, but they are absolutely necessary if a city is meeting its obligations to those most in need and at risk.

Jeffrey Hillman obviously needs more than a pair of boots to get him back on his feet. The Times article mentioned that he has two children “Nikita, 22 and Jeffrey, 24, but has had little contact with them since a visit three years ago.” Let’s hope those two children will now come forward and help. I also remember what my mother said to me when I was an adolescent, “How is it that one mother can take care of seven children, and seven children can’t take care of one mother?” Let’s hope two can take care of one father. Apparently, he is an army veteran, of which war I do not know, adding to the tragedy.

1 Comment

  • Candace Laughlin

    Officer DePrimo is One of The Best of Us; a dying breed
    if ever there was one.

    We all know it, and that’s why this is viral. We are starved for heroes. The shoeless man’s authenticity, or later-discovered lack of it,
    changes nothing.
    The young cop’s quietly humble body language- wanting to help without embarrassing the man- was/is what did it.

    We can see for ourselves that he is a Good Man, our
    Officer DePrimo. He has not opted out of doing the right thing despite the world around him.

    Here’s to a long and happy life for him.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    Is diplomacy worthwhile, even if the end result isn’t what we hoped for? That is the question, among many others, posed by the new play Oslo, by J.T. Rogers. Making its New York debut at Lincoln Center, the play examines the secret diplomatic process that led to the historic 1993 peace accords. The character of Shimon Peres makes an appearance onstage — and he, along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, tower over the proceedings. But they mainly do so in absentia. Instead, […]

    Read more →
  • Spirituality/Tradition Sports Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    JNS.org – Other than being part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, Sandy Koufax and Dean Kremer have something else in common: a respect for Jewish tradition. Koufax — who was recently ranked by ESPN as the best left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) history — decided not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because the game fell on Yom Kippur. “I would do the same,” Kremer said in an interview. Last month, the 20-year-old Kremer became […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    The famed lead guitarist of British rock band Queen, Brian May, encouraged Jewish singer-songwriter Adam Lambert to perform in Hebrew during their upcoming joint concert in Israel, an entertainment industry advocacy organization reported on Tuesday. During a recent interview with Israeli television personality Assi Azar, May was played a 2005 video of Lambert singing the popular song Shir L’Shalom, (Song for Peace). May was so impressed by Lambert’s singing of the Hebrew track that he told the American singer, “We have to do that. Let’s […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    JNS.org – Kenyan-born marathoner Lonah Chemtai is expected to compete for Israel at the Olympics Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil next month after gaining a last minute approval. “I am very proud [to represent Israel] and I hope to achieve a new personal best time,” Chemtai told Reuters. Chemtai, who grew up a rural village in western Kenya, first came to Israel in 2009 to care of the children of her country’s ambassador to Israel. The 27-year-old runner recently gained […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    To date or not to date? That is not the question for most Modern Orthodox singles in New York. The question is when will they find their future spouses, and when will their families stop nagging them about having babies? Inspired by the success of the Israeli show “Srugim,” Leah Gottfried, 25, decided she would create and star in her own show, “Soon By You.” “Dating is so serious already,” Gottfried said. “We wanted to take a lighter approach and laugh at the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israeli Actress Says Playing Muslim Character in ‘Tyrant’ Has Made Her More ‘Hopeful, Humble’

    Israeli Actress Says Playing Muslim Character in ‘Tyrant’ Has Made Her More ‘Hopeful, Humble’

    Israeli actress Moran Atias said that playing a Muslim woman in the hit FX series Tyrant has changed her outlook. “Educating myself about a different culture has made me more hopeful and humble, that we’re all the same,” the Jewish actress, 35, said during an interview with AOL Build. Atias plays Leila Al-Fayeed, the strong and politically minded wife of the president of Abbudin, a fictional Middle Eastern country run by a dictatorial family. The Israeli-born former model, who earned the title of Miss Globe International […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Jewish Fashionistas From Around the World to Tour ‘Chic Side of Israel’

    Jewish Fashionistas From Around the World to Tour ‘Chic Side of Israel’

    A delegation of 35 Jewish fashion industry mavens from around the world will travel to Israel later this month to “discover the chic side” of the country, 5 Town Jewish Times reported. The eight-day tour, organized by the Maryland-based Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) and the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, will include visits to key fashion sites and meetings with some of the country’s top fashion designers, merchandisers and marketers. Participants will also attend a JWRP Fashion Week event in Tel Aviv. JWRP said the trip is […]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Granddaughter of Holocaust Survivors Honored to Represent Israel at 2016 Olympic Games

    Granddaughter of Holocaust Survivors Honored to Represent Israel at 2016 Olympic Games

    Pro golfer Laetitia Beck said she is honored to have been selected to represent Israel at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil largely because of her grandparents, who survived the Holocaust. “Everywhere I go, I want people to know where I’m from, my background and where my family came from because of the struggle they had to go through,” she told the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). “Every week when I play and I see the Israeli flag, it brings me a lot […]

    Read more →