It’s Not Always “Us Against Them”

29 Nov

The story is pretty simple.  A New York cop sees a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk in freezing weather.  The homeless man has no shoes.  The cop goes into the nearby shoe store and buys a pair of boots and some socks with his own money.  A tourist passing by snaps a photo of the cop giving the boots and socks to the homeless guy.  The photo goes viral.

It’s not always “us against them”.  Sometimes, they are us.  And sometimes we are them.

We see so many videos of police abuse that we start thinking that all cops are fascist thugs.  The result can be a polarization that prevents the police from really seeing us, and prevents us from really seeing the police.  That polarization is dangerous to both “sides”.

I think it’s good for all of us to see the “humanity” that sometimes exists among our adversaries.  But it’s not just good if we see some “humanity” among the police.  It’s good if the police see evidence of humanity among themselves.  The officer in this video doesn’t merely remind you and me of his humanity.  He reminds his fellow officers of their humanity.  He may have even reminded himself of his own humanity.

That’s all good.

I suspect that all the internet videos of police abuse and violence don’t merely teach us that the cops are thugs–they may also teach the cops that they can and should be thugs.  If so, it should follow that a video like the one below not only teaches us that cops can be decent, it also shows the cops that it’s not necessary to be thugs; that it’s OK to be decent and compassionate.

video       less than 1 minute

Here’s a longer article on the “moment”:


P.S.  (121130)  And here’s a later video of the police officer and the woman who photographed him being interviewed on the Today Show:

Some people are concerned that this photograph et al were a “setup” intended for PR purposes.  It looks legit to me.

In fact, the photo–all by itself–isn’t that good.  By itself, the photo doesn’t tell us if the temperature is cold or mild.  It doesn’t tell us whether the police officer is trying help the homeless guy or making him put the socks and boots he already owned back on and get up off the street and find another place to sit out of public view.  We are told that the officer is giving socks and boots to the homeless man, but the photo doesn’t show the officer actually presenting the boots and socks to the homeless man.

If this was a “setup,” I’d expect to see a better and more contrived photo.  In fact, if it was a setup, I’d expect to see a video of the whole event–complete with the homeless man’s animated facial and verbal reactions.  Because the photo is, by itself, fairly inconclusive, I conclude that the photo is uncontrived.

And finally, even if it was a setup, the internet is something of a mystery.  I don’t think anyone knows how to make anything “go viral”.  It might be possible to create this scene as a PR stunt, but there’s no way that doing so would guarantee that the stunt would “go viral”.

The only way this photo makes much sense is if it is just exactly what it appears to be:  evidence of a surprising act of kindness and compassion from one of “them” to one of “us”.


Posted by on November 29, 2012 in Values, Video


Tags: , ,

11 responses to “It’s Not Always “Us Against Them”

  1. Jose Linares

    November 29, 2012 at 7:39 PM

    I am not buying this photo operation. Yes, term me a cynic. But I am too familiar with propaganda actions, did you know that the woman that took the picture is a “communications officer”?

    They need the P.R. for the Holidays, God knows people have been drained enough with all the Government fines and regulatory fees.

    • Jose Linares

      November 29, 2012 at 7:40 PM

      “The random act of kindness was captured by Jennifer Foster, a tourist from Florence, Ariz., who was visiting the city. Foster, communications director for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona, emailed the photo to the NYPD with a note commending DePrimo.”

    • Adask

      November 29, 2012 at 9:11 PM

      I saw comments in the original article I posted where someone suspected it was a setup. Maybe yes, maybe no. I don’t know.

      But, while I don’t like lies, I still wouldn’t mind (on a purely political level) if the picture was a setup if it not only created an improved image of cops in the public mind, also created an improved image of cops in the cops’ minds. A man who thinks of himself as a thug will probably act as a thug. A man who thinks of himself as a decent man will probably be less willing to abuse others.

      In any case, I don’t know the story and photo to be false, so I ran with it.

      • Jose Linares

        November 30, 2012 at 2:26 AM

        An excellent point Alfred, I agree with you that good men will identify with the portrayed actions.

      • Yartap

        November 30, 2012 at 4:43 PM

        Unlike most – I DID NOT SEE A POLICE OFFICER! I saw; either, a man with compassion or a man with guilt.

        Was this the Officer who removed this homeless man from his home due to a foreclosure or lack of money to pay property taxes? Was this the Officer who will not allow this homeless man to have a gun, so as, to protect his belongings, like his shoes or boots from theft?

        Our heros will be the people who stop tyranny and stop the enforcement of bad laws!

  2. shekinah419

    November 29, 2012 at 8:12 PM

    Reblogged this on servehiminthewaiting.

  3. chris s.

    November 29, 2012 at 8:33 PM

    the polarization has bee accomplished , by their actions, not all cops are bad, and the sherrifs dept. in my county has always acted with a lot of integrity, but… there are some elements of law enforcement that are OUT OF CONTROL , period. If the police in general do not like how they are portrayed, or the image that they are starting to get , as blood thirsty savages, then ”they ” need to clean house, if we – the general public – are going to increasingly treated as the enemy, the only thing I can say is ——————, they are digging their own grave————–…there is a tipping point.

  4. Michael

    November 30, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    A follow up video is now up on the web.

  5. todreigus

    November 30, 2012 at 12:49 PM

    I actually saw this on facebook 1st; I commended him & asked God to bless & keep him safe. I truly in my heart hope it’s real, but the more I examine it, it just seems a little fishy, everything is just a little too perfect, the perfect picture @ the perfect moment @ the perfect angle, the setting (in front of shoe store) out of state witness who’s from law enforcement family, who claims the officer didn’t know she was there, yet it’s obvious that she’s wasn’t that far away, yet Cops are trained to be aware of their surroundings & it’s @ night? Was the witness planning to take night photo’s & had special film in the camera so she didn’t need it to FLASH? Or maybe the Cop just didn’t notice the flash? Whether film or digital, the picture looks too good, it’s for the setting, night with the light sources behind & above, yet their fronts are crisply lit with no shadowing? Surely if the camera flashed the cop would have noticed her!! A little Fishy?

    I believe Mr. Adask is right, it will have a positive effect, at least at 1st. But I think IF it was staged, it will slowly migrate amongst the other Officers & then eventually to other Police Departments & then slowly to the public; I believe GOD will see to it! Still, in my heart I hope it’s real!

    Matthew 6:1-4
    “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

  6. todreigus

    November 30, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    Well, there is some shadowing, but look carefully at the angle from where SHE had to of taken the picture from (the angle from camera to the homeless man’s feet), either she was only “roughly” 10 ft away, or she took it from a 10 ft height.

  7. todreigus

    November 30, 2012 at 1:23 PM

    I’m sorry, but there is just know way the cop couldn’t have notice the woman taking this picture & with the way she talked with admiration of his actions, you know dam well she wouldn’t have left with-out telling the cop how she felt, giving him some praise for what he just did…yet they both claim they just spoke for the 1st time the morning of the “Today show” interview…. think about it!


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