Officer doesn't have the nose for police work
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Police officers who lose their sense of smell also risk losing their jobs, a Pennsylvania appeals court ruled yesterday.
A suburban Pittsburgh township had the right to terminate Officer David J. Agostino after he lost his sense of smell in an off-duty motorcycle accident, because officers must be able to detect drugs, alcohol, hazardous materials, natural gas, and other substances, a three-judge Commonwealth Court panel ruled.
"The evidence sufficiently demonstrated that Agostino suffered a physical disability that rendered him unfit to serve as a police officer," Judge Bernard L. McGinley wrote. "Critically, Agostino frequently patrolled alone and served as a first responder in instances that required a sense of smell to ensure his safety and the safety of others."
Agostino, who joined the force in 1998, was seriously injured in the August 2004 accident. A physician testified that his anosmia was related to a head injury and was permanent.
The officer passed a physical and returned to duty nearly two years later, but his lack of smell soon became an issue.
The township said Agostino's inability to smell impeded his performance. A fellow officer testified that Agostino was unable to smell the alcohol and marijuana odor around a motorist who had led police on a high-speed chase, McGinley wrote.