By John Grant
Jennifer Foster, a tourist from Florence, Arizona, was walking in Times Square on a cold night in November and came across a New York City police officer giving a barefoot homeless man a pair of all-weather boots he had purchased out of his own pocket. Moved, she took out her cell phone and snapped a picture.
If this officer had, instead, decided to beat this homeless man with a baton, it’s likely Ms Foster would have been intimidated, harassed or even arrested for doing what she did. In this case, the laudable actions of Officer Lawrence DePrimo went viral and he‘s become a national hero with an appearance on Good Morning America and more. It was unplanned good PR based on authentic human compassion. The officer reportedly was not aware of the tourist with the cell phone camera. He was acting as "New York's finest."
Ms Foster reported on her Facebook page  that Officer DePrimo told the man, “I have these size 12 boots for you, they are all-weather. Let’s put them on and take care of you.” He, then, helped the man put on his socks and the new warm boots.
Truth be told, this kind of unsung compassion goes on all the time. Teachers are notorious for spending their own money and time to buy poor, needy kids things not provided by the school system -- even breakfast. Similarly, people in a range of service professions spend their own resources to help people ignored by cold-blooded institutions. US military personnel do it all the time as they serve in foreign locales. I saw it in Viet Nam when I was there as a kid with my fellow soldiers, all of us, in my view, serving the larger, destructive institution of American imperialism.
To me, such cases are examples of bottom-up decency in a world too often overwhelmed by top-down institutional callousness.
Cops Versus Civilians With Cameras
The Officer DePrimo incident naturally opens up the controversial issue of cops and cameras, a legal/cultural flashpoint created by the mushrooming presence of small cameras in the hands of common citizens who some cops -- sometimes hopped up on ego or adrenaline -- frequently choose to treat as common criminals.
Last week, the US Supreme Court refused to hear a case  that had been overturned by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The original case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union in an Illinois federal district court and focused on an Illinois law that says it's a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison for an ordinary, tax-paying citizen to videotape a police officer doing his or her public duty...
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