While 12-year-old Joseph Prisco was playing basketball alone in a local Whitestone park one day, a squad car pulled up at the curb and one officer approached him.
Joseph thought maybe he was in trouble, but what the officer said shocked him. The policeman asked to “shoot some hoops,” according to the boy, while his partner waited by the car.
As the officer played with the preteen, he asked questions about where Joseph lived, sports he liked and school. When they finished playing, Joseph called his mother, Angela Delli Gatti-Prisco, and told her about what happened. She was stunned, and thought, “Since when does a police officer stop a car to play ball with some kid at a park?” she recalled.
But the men, Police Officers Justin Hubbard and Nicholas Hon, were just making certain the boy was okay when they saw him alone on March 26 at Clintonville Playground. Their actions inspired Delli Gatti-Prisco to write a letter of appreciation to the We Love Whitestone community group, which honored the two officers on Wednesday.
“In today’s day and age, many of us take for granted the protection and service we are provided by our ‘men in blue,’ the policemen of New York City, who day in and day out put their lives on the line for the lives of others,” the mother wrote in a letter to the group.
About the incident, the cops said they were just doing their job and checking on the boy. That humble response resonated with community members.
“With all the bad publicity that cops have been getting, we felt that the majority of them are good and trying to do good things,” We Love Whitestone founder Alfredo Centola said. “And we wanted to acknowledge their going above and beyond their everyday duties.”