YONKERS, NY – April 18, 2014 — In articles centered on Yonkers Police Officers Alex Della Donna and William Pataky, the statement is made: “Taken together, the lawsuits paint a grim picture of the officers’ behavior.” That could not be more misleading.One article recounts the story of James Jones, an admitted “ex-convict” and as the article states, “no stranger to law enforcement.” Mr. Jones claims that on Nov. 20, 2012, he was arrested and beaten by Police Officer Pataky, whom he claims to have recognized. Jones also claims that Officer Pataky called him a racial epithet. There is one major problem with Mr. Jones story: Not only was Officer Pataky not involved with Mr. Jones’ arrest, he was not working that day and was nowhere near the Nepperhan Community Center. He was on vacation. The Yonkers Police Internal Affairs Division has verified this.
Often career criminals, or as the article calls them, “ex-convicts,” file these lawsuits. Many are violent felons and drug dealers. In addition, they are often filed while sitting in jail and with free legal assistance. The articles fail to highlight that seven of the 14 lawsuits listed were filed by criminals from jail and that at least three of the lawsuits against Officer Della Donna were dismissed due to lack of cooperation from the accuser. Why not file a lawsuit when there are no repercussions for making false accusations and when you have nothing but time on your hands?
Decorated, dedicated officers
The most active officers, with the most arrests, most likely would receive the most complaints. In this case, Officers Della Donna and Pataky, with well over 4,000 arrests combined, are among the most active and decorated cops not only in Yonkers, but in Westchester County and beyond.
Since joining the Yonkers Police Department in 2007, Officer Alex Della Donna has received more than 60 awards for outstanding police work. In fact, this publication will be recognizing Alex’s efforts for the third time this coming May with yet another Journal News award. His tremendous efforts as a police officer have resulted in more than 2,000 arrests and have resulted in the recovery of more than 150 firearms. These numbers are both astounding and unprecedented.
Police Officer Billy Pataky, who joined the department in 1998, is also the recipient of roughly 60 awards. Billy has participated in well over 2,000 arrests and has helped take 30 firearms off the street. His dedication to protecting the people of Yonkers was evident when he saved a man’s life by pulling him off the train tracks while a train was bearing down and when while off duty, he pursued and captured a gang member who was armed with a handgun.
These officers, like most members of the YPD, have put their lives on the line time and time again to protect the people they serve. That is not to say that we are perfect and incapable of the occasional misstep. However, we deserve the benefit of the doubt. When our accusers are criminals, some of whom have spent their lives harming innocent people and helping to destroy neighborhoods, you have to question their credibility.
Department achievements ignored
For a more complete picture of these officers, we must fully consider all of their efforts and achievements, not just a handful of accusations. The same goes for the Yonkers Police Department. I know that I speak for the majority of the men and women of the YPD when I say that we are long overdue for an in-depth article on all of the positive work we do, not just the occasional blurb in the back pages.
How about reporting on the incredible charitable efforts of the men and women of the YPD, which has resulted in raising hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some of the charities we’ve helped include the St. Baldrick’s Foundation whose goal is to cure pediatric cancer, and Yonkers’ own Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center, just to name a couple.
It would also be nice to see an in-depth article on the dramatic crime reduction that has been achieved in Yonkers due to the efforts of police officers like Alex Della Donna and Billy Pataky. Since 2012, major crime is down more than 20 percent and Yonkers continues to be one of the safest cities of its size. This trend continues in 2014, with a 21 percent reduction in major crime. A reduction in crime like this does not happen by accident and it would be nice to see credit given where credit is due.
Detective Keith Olson is president of the Yonkers Police Benevolent Association.