One-legged man fulfills dream, becomes full-time police officer
Mike Saewitz, Register Staff             July 17, 2000

DERBY — John Netto may have only one leg, but that hasn’t stopped him from realizing a lifelong dream.

Last month Netto became the first person with a prosthetic leg to become a full-time Derby police officer. 

"I always wanted to be a cop," said Netto, a Derby native who became a part-time cop in January 1999 after eight years as an electrician with the IBEW in Norwalk. 

Netto, 28, was born with constraining bands that cut off circulation to his right ankle, left ankle, and around some of his fingers. After 11 corrective surgeries, a doctor told 4-year-old Netto he’d live a more normal life if he had his left leg amputated. 

Netto said he has been hesitant to talk about his prosthetic left leg. 

"I don’t want someone to look at me and say, "That’s the cop with one leg,’ " he said. "I want people to look at me and say, ‘That’s a nice guy.’ " 

Police Chief Andrew Cota said he "totally disregarded" Netto’s disability in hiring him. 

"If a person can perform the functions, the leg is not an issue," Cota said. "He’s an intelligent individual who will be able to do the job. Most people that know him like him." 

Netto, in his Field Training Officer program, has been working both day and night shifts and putting in 40 hours a week since joining the force full time June 21, a day after he graduated Meriden Academy. 

"John’s leg never stopped him from doing anything," said long-time friend Del DelMastro. 

With new carbon fibers in the foot of his artificial limb, Netto is now able to run 1½ miles in 11 minutes, 30 seconds. He can bench press 260 pounds. 

Netto, a three-year football player at Derby High School, said he never received any special accommodations, especially from superiors at the academy. 

"They picked on me. They asked me if I was missing any other body parts," he said, adding that he does not mind such jokes at all. 

In the academy, having a prosthetic leg is just like having trouble with academics or having trouble running, Netto said. 

"When you’re in the academy, everyone has their weaknesses," he said. 

Netto said department members have not treated him differently because of his leg. "If they had to worry about me behind them, I’d be doing harm to them," he said. 

Officer Thomas Donofrio said he has no worries about Netto. 

"He’ll make a good officer," Donofrio said. "I don’t think his leg will play a factor. He’s a caring, understanding guy who gets along with people well." 

Other men with prosthetic limbs have claimed they’ve been discriminated against when applying as police officers. 

For instance, Brian O’Sullivan is scheduled to appear on "Good Morning America" today and charge the New York Police Department would not let him join the force because he has a prosthetic right leg. 

There are three NYPD officers with artificial limbs.