July 24, 2013
City cop back to work after DWI arrest
A city police officer who pleaded guilty to driving while ability impaired after crashing his car while intoxicated March 17 on West Main Street was back to work this morning.
What disciplinary action the Cortland Police Department took against Officer Patrick J. O’Donnell is unclear.
Police Commission Chairman Thomas O’Mara said he did not know the specifics of O’Donnell’s absence from work or return.
“I knew that he was going to be reinstated,” O’Mara said, referring inquiries about if O’Donnell was suspend, how long he was away from work and if he was docked pay to Police Chief F. Michael Catalano. “That’s a personnel matter and that really isn’t my expertise.”
Catalano was unavailable for comment Tuesday.
Deputy Chief Paul Sandy also directed inquiries to Catalano, who has previously declined to comment.
“I think it’s a dead issue now,” Sandy said. “I mean, what happens to him I don’t think is newsworthy and I’m not going to comment on the personnel of this department under such circumstances.”
O’Donnell, 28, of Cortland, did not stop at a stop sign on March 17 at the intersection of Floral Avenue and West Main Street, driving through bushes and a wooden stockade fence between two properties, striking a parked vehicle and causing damage to two other vehicles, then causing minor damage to an enclosed porch.
No one but O’Donnell was injured in the accident and he sustained minor scrapes to his head.
O’Donnell, who was off duty at the time of the accident, was originally charged with driving while intoxicated with blood-alcohol content above 0.08 percent, a misdemeanor, and failing to stop at a stop sign, unreasonable speed and having an unregistered motor vehicle, traffic infractions.
He was fined $755 in City Court on April 5 for the reduced driving while ability impaired charge.
The lesser charge is often imposed when a defendant has no prior driving while intoxicated charges.
O’Donnell has served on the police force for five years.
“He’s a good officer. I’m glad to have him back,” O’Mara said. “Let’s face it, you know, things happen.”
O’Mara did not think the arrest would impede O’Donnell’s ability to serve as a police officer.
“Not at all,” O’Mara said. “Hopefully, he learned a valuable lesson.”
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