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Handicapped man fights for chance to be a cop

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Patrick Markey

Brian O’Sullivan might make a great New York City cop.

Policing is in the O’Sullivan blood. His grandfather, a Kerryman, took up the gun and the badge. So did his father, his uncle and his brother.

Beyond family tradition, O’Sullivan seems to meet the grade himself. No doughnuts for this young man: He can bench press 300 pounds and runs two or three miles a day.

But Bronx native O’Sullivan can’t find out whether he can proudly serve his community. The New York Police Department has refused to let him try out for the force because he has only one leg, the result of a birth defect.

Last week, O’Sullivan filed a lawsuit to try and persuade the department to give him a chance to prove he has what it takes to wear the blue uniform his family has made part of their lives.

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"They never gave me the chance," the 23-year-old O’Sullivan said. "They just disqualified me. The only reason they gave me was ‘ortho.’ What does that mean? They didn’t even spell out the reason why."

O’Sullivan said his problems began two years ago when he was called up for the medical examinations after having passed the department’s written exam with high marks. Standing in line with a batch of other potential recruits, O’Sullivan said a physician pulled him aside when he saw the young man’s full-leg prosthesis.

The other recruits proceeded to complete the pre-agility tests required before the department’s physical, tests O’Sullivan knew he could complete with ease. One pre-condition is the ability to run a mile and a half within 15:30. O’Sullivan said he can make that in 13 minutes flat.

Despite letters from local politicians asking the department to give O’Sullivan the chance to prove his ability to pass the test, his case was left in the limbo of medical review. Eventually he was disqualified.

O’Sullivan’s attorney Brian O’Dwyer said the lawsuit seeks to allow his client his legal right take the test. A Police Department spokesman said he could not comment on the case because it was an ongoing litigation.

For O’Sullivan it is all a matter of getting his due.

"It is just something I wanted to do," he said. "I never wanted the publicity. I was hoping to get in without anyone noticing."

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