The news is filled with bad stories about cops. The inspiring stories, the ones about police officers’ secret and compassionate acts of charity, often don’t make the news. That’s because officers like Michael Kotsonis don’t broadcast these deeds.
But the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, cop assures that they happen all the time.
“What you do when no one is looking, that’s the character of someone,” he told the Portsmouth Herald after reluctantly agreeing to speak about the incident.
What he did was help a mother in need, a woman too poor to afford ingredients for her daughter’s birthday cake.
Officer Kotsonis committed the charitable act last week at a local grocery store, and an employee there said it was the kindest thing she had ever seen. Determined not to let the gesture to go unnoticed, the worker called the newspaper and asked for Michael’s story to get the attention it deserved.
“With all of these stories about bad cops, I thought y’all would love to hear this one,” she told the paper. “He’s a Portsmouth police officer and I literally have never had such an amazing experience with an officer and I’m hoping that he can get some sort of recognition.”
Kotsonis was dispatched to the local store when staff there reported a shoplifter had stolen birthday cake mix, Crisco, and, according to CBS Local, vanilla frosting. The items’ value totaled about $9. The cop investigated, learned the shoplifter’s identity, and drove to her home, intending to take back the items.
But at her house, the cop learned why she’d stolen these items. They were the ingredients for a birthday cake, and the birthday cake was for her young daughter.
“When Officer Kotsonis went to interview her, she admitted to the theft,” Lt. Darrin Sargent told WMUR. “She stated that the only reason she took what she took was because she couldn’t afford it.”
The cop returned the stolen birthday cake ingredients to the store and told the manager he’d like to buy them for the mother and her child. Though the shoplifter didn’t steal the items for herself, “it doesn’t make it right,” but he said “I’m not going to take away a kid’s birthday cake.”
“It doesn’t excuse what she did, but the officer, as he stated, didn’t think the kid should suffer for the actions of his mother,” assistant manager Daniel Rose noted.
The cop took the items back to the mother, admonished her for stealing, and went on his way, never intending to talk about his random act of kindness.
Now that he has been outed, Kotsonis has used the story to remind the public that helping people — not just arresting them — is an integral, if covert, aspect of a cop’s job. Acting Deputy Police Chief Frank Warchol said he’s heard about other officers paying for gas or food for needy people, but these kind of stories rarely reach his ears.
Unless the grocery store clerk hadn’t called the newspaper, he said he’d never have known the 19-year-veteran had shown mercy to the shoplifter and bought the stolen birthday cake ingredients.
Lt. Sargent said that the officers in his department joined the force for the right reasons, and that was to “do the right thing at the right time.” And that’s exactly what Officer Michael Kotsonis did.
And in that reluctant newspaper article, the cop made sure to note that doing good for others isn’t something that should be broadcast to the world. In other words, secret good deeds are really the best kind.
“We don’t publicize it. We don’t do stuff to brag about it. I don’t need an article to know what’s right and wrong.”
In California early last month, another stranger reached out to someone in need at a grocery store. Matthew Jackson‘s story — and his death in car accident a day later — has inspired people to share their experiences with random kindness online.
[Photo By Eugene Sergeev/Shutterstock]