Joey Fabus, 8, sworn in as Bethel Park police officer for a day

Published Jun 24, 2014 at 4:38 pm (Updated Jun 24, 2014 at 5:52 pm)

A few minutes after being sworn in as Bethel Park’s newest police officer, Joey Fabus conducted his first traffic stop, issued his first citation and testified before District Judge Ron Arnoni about the reason for the stop. He recommended leniency for the defendant, then shook her hand when the case was dismissed.

Becoming a police officer is Joey’s goal when he grows up. On June 24, his dream came true, even though he is only 8 years old.

Joey’s future is uncertain. He has an inoperable brain tumor in his brain stem and his prognosis is grave.

His mother, Cindy Fabus, said her youngest child is not completely aware of his medical situation.

Knowing his son’s dream is to be a police officer, Joey’s father, David Fabus, contacted the Bethel Park Police Department and, with the permission of police Chief John Mackey, plans began to take shape to make Joey a police officer for an afternoon.

Much of the planning was completed by Officer Tom Rigatti, who acted as Joey’s partner for the day.

Dressed in a police uniform, tailored to his small size, Joey stood before Arnoni and a courtroom filled with family and friends, and repeated the oath all officers take in a strong, clear voice. When Arnoni, dressed in his official robe, congratulated Joey on being the newest officer, the standing-room-only courtroom erupted in loud applause.

Joey beamed with pride.

“I feel safe now that you are a member of our police department,” Arnoni told Joey.

He presented Joey with handcuffs and said, “I’m looking forward to you keeping this municipality safe today.”

In addition to several Bethel Park officers, Joey’s ceremony was witnessed by officers from Upper St. Clair and the Bethel Park School District. Also in full uniform was Joey’s cousin, “Uncle” Joseph Fabus, a detective in Zone 3 of the City of Pittsburgh Police Department.

“He’s had a ton of military and police influence throughout his life,” Joseph Fabus said as he watched Joey being congratulated.

“He only wears camouflage,” Joseph Fabus said, adding he had taken the day off to witness Joey’s special day. “I’m very proud to be a part of this. We’ve gotten so much support from the state police and the local police.”

Jeffrey Bele, 13, is Joey’s cousin and was one of only a few family members and friends not wearing a green T-shirt proclaiming Joey’s Army, Cherish Every Moment.

“He’s thrilled,” Bele said of how Joey felt becoming a police officer for the day. “I remember when we played, he always wanted to play police stuff.”

After the swearing in, Joey was escorted to the department’s sport-utility patrol car by Rigatti, with Joey riding in the passenger seat, suddenly the lights and sirens were activated and a traffic stop was made in the municipal parking lot.

Joey approached the car, spoke with the driver, Mia Rigatti, Officer Rigatti’s daughter, and then wrote the citation for “running a stop sign” on West Library Avenue.

Contrary to real-life police proceedings, Joey, Mia Rigatti and Officer Rigatti marched to Arnoni’s courtroom where the case was called for a hearing. All were sworn in and Joey testified, prompted by Rigatti, as to what he witnessed. Mia Rigatti pleaded guilty, and when asked by Arnoni if Joey wished to give her a break, he consented. Arnoni again thanked Joey for his hard work “keeping the streets safe.”

David Fabus said sleep was not easy for Joey the night before the ceremony, but added Joey’s health only permits him to sleep off and on.

When asked by a friend how Joey was “holding up” under the excitement, Cindy Fabus, her eyes filled with tears, replied he was doing well.

Joseph Fabus said Joey is only able to comprehend a portion of what his future may hold.

“His family tells him he needs to do everything the doctors tell him to do to get better,” Joseph Fabus said.

After the “arrest,” Joey took a short break and sat on his father’s lap inside the police department.

He said being able to sit in Mackey’s chair a week or so before was “weird,” and went on to say being a police officer was not the only goal he had. Also topping the list is that of a garbage man.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent riding in the police car with Rigatti to destinations selected by Joey, then a security walk-through of the Bethel Park Community Center.

His reaction as to how the day went was short and to the point. “It was fun. It was the best day of my life.”

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