Sometimes, the simple act of getting down on the same level and seeing eye-to-eye with someone who’s having a hard time can make all the difference in the world. And that’s exactly what one North Carolina police officer is proving this week, thanks to a viral photo that’s now making its way around Facebook.
On Friday, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department shared the striking image to their Facebook page, which shows one of their officers sitting on the ground in the corner of a parking lot, while comforting a young man. According to the post, Officer Purdy had been dispatched to the scene because the student, who reportedly has autism, had recently fled his high school campus and was thought to have been suicidal. Because he’d shown previous signs of violent behavior, administrators were especially concerned, which is why they notified police right away.
In the photo, Officer Purdy can be seen sitting on the ground, his legs stretched out, hands resting comfortably in his lap, head turned to face the young man. The officer looks relaxed and friendly; just kicking back as a fellow teenager might. And the young man, while hunched over, and perhaps exhibiting some subtle signs of upset, looks pretty relaxed, too. He and the officer seem to be genuinely connecting, chatting like old pals.
There are still many details surrounding the case that remain unknown — like what the scene was like when the officer first arrived, and before the photo was snapped. But we do know how things ended up.
According to the Facebook post, the two did find a point of connection, and even ended up laughing together at one point. And that atmosphere of trust Officer Purdy created between them is what ultimately deescalated the emotional turmoil the teen was feeling.
“Officer Purdy established trust and a relationship that allowed officers to get this young man the help that he so desperately needed,” the police department’s post read. “There’s more to policing than making arrests and enforcing the law. Sometimes taking those extra little steps makes the biggest difference in someone’s life.”
Since it was first shared on May 13, the post has (rather unsurprisingly) gone pretty viral: It’s been shared over 200K times, and has garnered over 25K comments. The comments themselves are almost all positive, including many from parents of children with autism who wished to thank Officer Purdy for treating the boy with such compassion and respect.
Other commenters remarked on how good it is to see a positive portrayal of a police officer, as so much recent media coverage of the police has tended to be negative. “This goes to show that not all police officers are bad,” wrote one commentator. “Thats why we need to see more FB posts and news articles like this one. Well done officer, keep up the good work because we need you.”
When I first saw the photo myself, while scrolling through my Facebook feed, it honestly brought tears to my eyes. First, because as a parent, I know the power of taking things down a notch and getting on my kid’s level. My older son is a highly sensitive child, and raising my voice or reprimanding him harshly only makes him more upset and defiant. I have learned over the years that if I want to get him to cooperate, I need to sit down near him, maybe put my hand on his shoulder, and tell him simply and kindly what I need him to do. Doing this has worked wonders in terms of getting him to cooperate, and has deepened our relationship.
But the photo didn’t just touch me on a personal level. In this day and age, it feels to many of us parents like we are our raising kids in a violent, antagonistic world. We’re constantly inundated with news reports depicting violence inflicted upon children — sometimes by children themselves. Unfortunately, many of these reports are accurate: There are enormous divides in our country, and heinous acts of violence committed against kids based on race, gender, and socioeconomic status happen on a daily basis.
But there is much good happening out there, too, and it’s important to be reminded of that. What this photo shows is that at our core we are all humans, and that compassion knows no bounds. This boy could easily be your child or mine. And all any of us want for our children is for them to be protected and loved, especially when they are most vulnerable and in need.More On