Photo of US police officer sitting on ground to comfort suicidal teen goes viral

Police officer Tim Purdy chatting with the teenager, who had wandered away from his high school campus.
Police officer Tim Purdy chatting with the teenager, who had wandered away from his high school campus. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/CHARLOTTE-MECKLENBURG POLICE DEPARTMENT

A photo of the interaction between a police officer and a potentially suicidal teenager with autism has captured a rare and heartwarming side of law enforcement in the United States.

Shared on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's Facebook page last Friday (May 13), it showed police officer Tim Purdy sitting on the ground as he chatted with the teenager, a high school student who had wandered away from a nearby campus.

The post, which has racked up more than 250,000 shares, explained that the student - who had a neuro-developmental disorder and also possessed a history of displaying violent behaviour - may have been suicidal.

Aware of his history, Officer Purdy decided to sit next to him to talk things through, and even got him laughing.

"Officer Purdy established trust and a relationship that allowed officers to get this young man the help that he so desperately needed," the post added.

"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."

Speaking to CNN, Officer Purdy revealed that he spoke to the teenager about school, family and football.

"This is something that tens of thousands of law enforcement officers that are out there do every single day," he explained in a Facebook video. "You just don't hear about it."