By Eun Kyung Kim for TODAY
A photo of a young ballerina kissing her police officer father goodbye is tugging at hearts. It's also being hailed for putting a human face on a dangerous line of work.
The image shows a girl, clad in a leotard, tights and tutu, standing on her tiptoes as she holds her dad's face in her hands and plants a kiss on his lips. The photo was posted Monday on the Facebook page for the police department in Arlington, Texas and has since gone viral, reaching more than 836,000 people within two days.
The girl is the 4-year-old daughter of Sgt. J. McRay, who was working his regular late afternoon shift when he was surprised with a visit from his family.
"His daughter had just finished ballet class and wanted to kiss her daddy goodnight so wife and daughter surprised him after he ate dinner," said Lt. Christopher Cook, a spokesman for the department.
The photo was originally posted by McRay's wife on her personal Facebook page and spotted by a friend, Arlington police officer Zhivonni McDonnell, who is the department's social media coordinator.
"It pulled at my heartstrings," said McDonnell, who then received permission to repost the "awesome" photo on the Facebook page for the police department.
"Love this! Here is an evening shift Sergeant and his daughter one night after her dance class," the photo caption reads. "She wanted a special picture with her daddy at work while she wore her 'uniform' which is her leotard, tights and frilly skirt for dance. She was so excited to see him."
The caption ends with the hashtag #WhyIWearTheBadge, inspiring other law enforcement officers to post similar photos.
McRay declined to be interviewed but did issue a statement through his department, saying: "The community support has been amazing and something like this really shows the humanistic side to our noble profession."
Cook said that's the reason why the department's Facebook feed is not always filled with crime-related posts. It often includes content that can help tell stories about their officers.
"We're human just like anyone else," he said. "We knew that photo would do pretty well, just not to the level it's reached."