Administrator - Founding Member
PORTSMOUTH — Officer Michael Kotsonis was called to a store about a woman shoplifting last week, learned she stole items to bake her child a birthday cake and instead of arresting her, paid the tab.
A 19-year member of the city's police force, Kotsonis hoped his kindness would remain anonymous.
"I didn't do it for the attention," he said Tuesday. "What you do when no one is looking, that's the character of someone."
It was an employee of Ocean State Job Lots who reported Kotsonis' goodwill to the Portsmouth Herald, calling it "the kindest thing in the entire world."
"With all of these stories about bad cops, I thought y'all would love to hear this one," said the store worker, who asked to be unnamed. "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 reluctantly agreed to talk about the theft call that became an act of charity, saying it's one of many similar things his fellow officers "do all the time."
"We don't publicize it," he said. "We don't do stuff to brag about it. I don't need an article to know what's right and wrong."
Kotsonis said he was dispatched to the Lafayette Road store where he learned a woman had stolen cake mix, Crisco and "a couple of things of frosting." Through an investigation, he determined the identity of the thief and went to her home to recover the items. It was there he learned they were taken to bake a child's birthday cake.
Kotsonis said he brought the items back to the store and told the manager, "I'd like to buy it for them."
"I'm not going to take away a kid's birthday cake," he recalled. "I ended up bringing it back to the mother."
Kotsonis said the mother didn't steal the items for herself, adding, "it doesn't make it right."
"But the kid shouldn't have to pay," he said.
Acting Deputy Police Chief Frank Warchol said Kotsonis exemplifies the department's mission statement that's summarized with the words community, commitment and compassion.
"Mike's compassion took over. He used discretion and I guarantee the kids were happy," Warchol said.
Warchol said he's heard of other officers giving needy people gas and food money and typically doesn't find out about it from the officers who did the good deeds. He said he never would have known about Kotsonis and the stolen cake ingredients, if not for a call from the Herald.
"I know he doesn't want the attention," said the deputy chief.
Kotsonis said an often unnoticed aspect of police work is helping people.
"If you can help someone out," he said, "you do."