I-Team Investigation: Recovering Farmington officer’s return to police force may be in jeopardy

Recovering Farmington officer’s return to police force in jeopardy
Published: May. 19, 2022 at 7:08 PM EDT
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FARMINGTON, CT (WFSB) - A Farmington police officer is determined to return to the force after a suspect crushed him with a car last fall.

Officer James O’Donnell is making great strikes in his recovery.

The I-Team sat down to talk with him, and found out he’s still not guaranteed to return to the force.

Officer O’Donnell’s pelvis was crushed in the incident.

There was a big fear that walking would be an issue going forward, so it’s remarkable to know that his pelvis and legs are all fine.

It’s an issue with his foot that’s been the only thing that’s keeping him from returning to the force.

On September 20, 2021 Farmington Police Officer James O’Donnell was struck and pinned against his cruiser.

The suspect behind the wheel of the car was wanted for stealing catalytic converters.

Eyewitness News was the first station to give a glimpse at his recovery when we spoke to him in November.

“I attempted to move myself around, move my leg. I tried to crawl, and I couldn’t,” said O’Donnell.

O’Donnell went through four hours of grueling physical therapy, three days a week at Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford.

“It was kind of worse than the police academy,” said O’Donnell.

That hard work paid off because O’Donnell’s recovery has been fast.

“About halfway through the process, I was saying to myself, ‘I’m ready to go back to work,’” O’Donnell said.

In January, he did, and was assigned to light duty.

“When you hear calls go out, you have to fight the urge because you can’t do anything,” said O’Donnell.

the goal was to go back to full duty by the end of March.

That didn’t happen because while recovery from the ankle up has been faster than anyone expected, his right foot hasn’t healed as quickly.

“She says it’s most likely I have turf toe,” O’Donnell said.

The painful condition appears when a ligament gets sprained and O’Donnell had two choices.

“Either I leave it as is or I have surgery,” he said.

He couldn’t leave it as is for two reasons.

O’Donnell wants to get back to work and he wants to be there for his kids, three-year-old Andrew and 14-month-old Saoirse.

“I wouldn’t be able to run, sprint, put any weight through my foot,” O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell got the surgery this week and is now in a boot with the hope that he’ll be back on the Farmington force later this summer.

“The specialist says in about three months, I should be completely back to normal,” said O’Donnell.

When he returns, he’ll be dealing with new laws.

This month the legislature passed a bill allowing police to hold suspects for eight hours, instead of six when they’re looking to get a judge to sign a detention order.

Law enforcement will also have easier access to juvenile arrest records and minors will now be required to be arraigned within five days of an arrest.

“I feel as if the changes are very small, but it’s going in the right direction,” said Kris O’Donnell, James’ wife.

Since her husband’s tragedy, Kris O’Donnell has been relentless in pushing for those changes and that fight isn’t ending.

Her goal is to contact every legislator before the election.

“I want to see what they’re going to do to keep the law enforcement in this state protected,” said Kris.

The O’Donnells feel that more can be done.

After living through this life-changing moment, no one would blame officer O’Donnell for being nervous as he inches closer to returning to the force, but he’s not.

“The world isn’t what we want it to be. It’s not going to be perfect. My job’s never going to be perfect. Whether or not the legislators decide to get together and do something bipartisan or if nothing comes of anything, it’s still the job I want to do and I’ll take any opportunity to do it,” said O’Donnell.

One thing the I-Team always takes away from our meetings with Officer O’Donnell is his positive attitude.

Even in the darkest of times, he was smiling, looking on the bright side of things and kept looking ahead to getting back to normal.

It will be a special day when he achieves his goal and returns to full duty service.

Eyewitness News will be there when that happens.