FINANCIAL DISTRICT — The Wall Street Bull has been freed from the bars that have surrounded it for months, but the NYPD continues to have a round-the-clock guard on the tourist attraction.
An NYPD officer spent the day Monday beside the bronze sculpture, which had been fenced off since the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street protests — and happily spent hours snapping pictures of happy couples in front of it.
He accepted a steady stream of cameras from couples and families posing in front of the iconic statue Monday afternoon, urging tourists to "Smile!" before taking several shots of each group.
The officer, who declined to give his name, gamely crouched down and adjusted camera angles to get a better picture. He also posed with children and several women and even allowed a few of them to try on his navy NYPD cap.
"It's the public, so I've got to help them out," explained the officer, who did not give his name.
"The reason I'm here is for the safety of you guys," added the officer, who said his official job at the bull is to organize the crowd of tourists and keep them out of traffic.
The NYPD has been guarding the "Charging Bull" sculpture since Occupy Wall Street set up camp in Lower Manhattan last fall.
After members of Community Board 1 expressed concerns about the barricades around the bull posing a danger to pedestrians who spilled out into the streets nearby in hopes of getting a photo, the NYPD pushed back some of the metal barricades over the weekend.
Many visitors Monday afternoon said they were grateful to have a chance to get close enough to rub the sculpture's supposedly lucky nether regions and pose with arms flung around its lowered horns.
They also said they were impressed by how approachable the cops assigned to the beat were at taking their photos with the statue.
"This is the best way to show the other side of the NYPD," said Herbert Le Lorrain, 52, of Holland, who posed by the bull with his wife. "They're not bullies."
Kyme Rowe, 38, from Australia, said she was "very surprised" to see an NYPD officer joking around with tourists.
"Obviously, he's there to protect [the bull]," Rowe said. "It just seems weird."
John Vincente, 46, from Long Island, said the officer was doing a good job of controlling the crowd.
"There's chaos and then there's organized chaos," Vincente said. "He keeps it organized. It's definitely necessary."
The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.