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Lower Burrell in shock over death of Patrolman Kotecki

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By Rossilynne Skena and Liz Hayes
Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011

It will take Lower Burrell a lifetime to heal after the death of Patrolman Derek Kotecki, a city councilman said.

"Derek was a first-class individual and he was a wonderful officer, husband, father, son," said city Councilman David Regoli. "He represented the city as well as any officer could represent the city."

Kotecki, a K-9 officer, had pushed to get a police dog for the department.

Kotecki, 40, played Little League baseball in Lower Burrell and played on the Burrell High School basketball team.

He joined the Lower Burrell police force in October 1993 at the age of 22.

Kotecki was the father of two boys, Regoli said. His father, Richard, is a former city councilman.

"Our community has lost one of the finest public servants that we have," Regoli said. "More importantly, two children lost a father and his wife lost a husband and his parents lost a son."

Councilman Joe Grillo called Kotecki a "dedicated" officer who worked well with police dogs.

"He was a good father and husband -- a good family man," said Grillo, who is in charge of public safety.

Regoli said calls poured in on his cell phone about the incident, and he hoped the news wasn't true.

"It's devastating," Regoli said. "As a city official, this is the call you would never want to get."

Kotecki is believed to be the first Lower Burrell officer to be killed in the line of duty.

"This is the absolute worst thing that can happen to a community," Regoli said.

Officials were wracked with the shock of the incident happening in their quiet hometown.

"This is something that you'd never expect to have in this community," Regoli said. "It's the worst day I've had as a public official."

Said Grillo, "You would think this would happen in big cities."

Kotecki patrolled the boardwalk in Ocean City, Md., as a part-time officer before he was hired full time in Lower Burrell under then-Chief William Newell.

In a 1994 interview with the Valley News Dispatch, Kotecki said he welcomed the chance to police his hometown.

"I wanted to be able to go home and actually feel like I did something at the end of the day," he said.

Patrolman Kotecki was involved with some of the first Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) programs in Burrell School District.

Kotecki in the 1994 interview indicated even in relatively low-crime Lower Burrell, officers still face risks and can't be lazy in their crime-fighting techniques.

"You have to become more aggressive and find out what's going on," he said. "You can't sit and wait for a call to come to you telling you that a burglary is in progress. You don't want to be the last to know."

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