Portsmouth Police Officer Michael Kotsonis used his own money to pay for items a local mom had stolen to make her child a birthday cake. He said officers help people all the time and that while stealing is wrong he couldn’t let an innocent child suffer consequences for it. (Deb Cram/Seacoastonline)

When Officer Michael Kotsonis last month tracked down the woman who stole groceries from a local discount store, he didn’t arrest her. Instead, he apprehended the stolen items, returned to the store, paid for them out of pocket, and brought them back to her.

The culprit told him she’d taken the cake mix, Crisco and frosting from the store to bake her child a homemade birthday cake. Without the means to pay for them, she swiped the ingredients from the Ocean State Job Lots, a New England-based retail chain.

When Kotsonis, a 19-year Portsmouth, New Hampshire police officer, heard the reason for her petty crime, he didn’t want to ruin a child’s birthday.

A store clerk, moved by the officer’s act of kindness, anonymously tipped the local newspaper to the story, hoping he’d get some recognition for a good deed. Kotsonis, who did not return calls for comment, said he’d rather it have stayed private.

“I didn’t do it for the attention,” he told the Portsmouth Herald. “What you do when no one is looking, that’s the character of someone.”

He said he didn’t condone the woman stealing, but said “the kid shouldn’t have to pay.”

His charitable act has spread quickly online since it was first reported earlier this week. His fellow officers lavished praise on him, saying this was Kotsonis’s character. His colleagues posted this shout-out on the department’s social media:

This is what Portsmouth PD is all about!! Thank you Officer Kotsonis for shining a light on an otherwise darker moment in someone’s life. We couldn’t be more proud of what you bring to this community!!!

Posted by Portsmouth NH Police Department on Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Local Portsmouth readers in the comment section also bestowed thanks for Kotsonis’s goodwill.

“It does my heart good to see small acts of kindness still happen,” one commenter wrote. “You Sir, give us all hope. Thank you and Merry Christmas.”

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