A photo showing a Rockford Police officer caught in an act of kindness has been shared hundreds of times on Facebook.
In the photo, Assistant Deputy Chief Mike Dalke is shown going out of his way to have lunch with a young African-American boy.
“I’m still kind of, I don’t want to say shocked, but that wasn’t really the plan at all,” Dalke says of all the social media attention the photo has generated.
Dalke’s wife found the photo on Facebook and told him about it. He says he didn’t even see anyone taking a picture.
“My wife had said, ‘Did you go to McDonald’s?’ Because, I usually don’t go to McDonald’s. ‘Why, what happened?’ And I saw this picture, and I had no idea someone had snapped a picture,” he said.
The photo was taken at the McDonald’s near East State Street and Jefferson Street on Tuesday. Dalke knew the teen in the photo, who is a regular at District Two’s violence intervention program, a six-month program for middle school boys who are either in trouble at school or in the community, or have suffered some type of emotional trauma at home.
Some of the activities teens participate in while in the program include learning computer programming, music production, and playing basketball with the officers.
So, while in-between meetings, a thought popped into Dalke’s head.
“I went over, grabbed him real quick and said, ‘Hey, let’s go do lunch,” he said.
The original post has been shared more than a hundred times. The person who posted it to Facebook says actions like these can make a difference, building a sense of trust between the residents of Rockford and those who police them.
Dalke modestly downplays the attention the photo is generating online. He says the most rewarding part of his job is “to see one of these guys at a store, and have them come up to me and say, ‘Hey, thanks. You really helped me change my life.”