Officer of the Year: DiFalco dedicated to community work

Officer Chris DiFalco’s favorite cop story from his years as a Ridgefield policeman involves a late night patrol when he was still fresh off training — and one very confused donkey. DiFalco, who was named the Ridgefield Police Department’s Officer of the Year in February, shared the story with The Press in an interview last Thursday afternoon.

“I’m going up around Pope’s Corner, and just a donkey is in the middle of the road — there’s farms up there –— and I’m like, ‘What the heck is this?’” DiFalco said.

He pulled over to the side of the road and radioed dispatch.

“I’m like, ‘There’s a donkey here,’” DiFalco recalled saying, starting off the strangest conversation he’s ever had with a Ridgefield police dispatcher.

“What?” came the inevitable response on the other end.

He stopped the car, and then something even more strange happened.

“It sits in front of the cruiser,” DiFalco said. “They didn’t teach us in the academy, what the heck do I do with a donkey in the middle of the road?”

After a while, DiFalco managed to shoo the stubborn animal back up the driveway from where it had come. Later, he wrote the incident down into his log — “donkey removed from roadway.”

A veteran of five years on the force, DiFalco attributed his Officer of the Year honor to the community-first approach he takes in the field, and the support of his superior officers.

DiFalco, a former mechanic, runs a car-fixing clinic for families in need called “Repair Because We Care” every year around the holidays, when families are often strapped for funds to keep up with car repairs.

He works with the town Social Services Department to find families in need. The Police Benevolent Association helps provide funds for the program, DiFalco said.

He also spends a lot of time chasing drug-related crimes.

“That’s great, because that’s one less bit of drugs coming off our streets — no matter who it’s coming off of — so I really enjoy that,” he said.

‘Giving way’

Chief John Roche said the department is proud of DiFalco, who spent his teenage years in Ridgefield.

“He has a very giving way about him,” the chief said. “He enjoys giving back to the community, and you can’t ask for anything more in a police officer, or a citizen.”

As for the Officer of the Year award — “the person who rises to the top is an exceptional person,” said Roche, who won the honor in 1983. “We’re very proud of him.”

Keeping busy

Originally from Long Island, DiFalco’s family moved to Ridgefield in time for him to enroll as a freshman at Ridgefield High School.

As soon as the high school gave him working papers, he got a job at Keough’s Hardware.

He also worked at the Little Gym, which at the time was in the same parking lot, before getting a job pushing a broom at Precision Brakeworks on Route 7.

He worked there all through his college years at WestConn, where he pursued a degree in criminal justice. He also worked security at the Ridgefield Playhouse.

DiFalco worked for 10 years as a professional mechanic, which he credits with helping him in his job as a cop.

“I think it keeps your mind sharp, because there’s the attention to detail and problem solving. I think all of it’s connected in a weird backwards kind of way,” he said. “Because as a cop you have to pick up on details — you’ve gotta always be ‘on’ and ready.”

The fixer

He still helps friends and neighbors with their mechanical problems now and then, fixing everything from cars to lawn mowers to snowblowers — his latest hobby.

While DiFalco said he’d eventually like to make sergeant, he doesn’t see himself headed for a desk job with the department. He likes to help people on patrol.

“People call you when they need you,” DiFalco said, “and if I can go and help them and get them in a better place than they were when they called me, it doesn’t get any better.”