Crossing the Thin Blue Line

The arrest of 37-year old Anthony A. Rypka, a police officer since 1998 and a police dispatcher prior to that, caught the Tarrytown Police Department completely off-guard.

imagesThe charges of "Promoting a Sexual Performance By a Child" and "Possessing a Sexual Performance By a Child," both felonies, stemmed from a routine electronic scanning by America Online (AOL) of email attachments coded for known child pornographic images. Those pornographic images had been registered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. After identifying the email account associated with the pornographic attachments, AOL contacted both the New York State Police in Newburgh, New York and investigators from the Westchester County District Attorney’s office. According to the District Attorney’s office, "a search warrant was executed" at Rypka’s home and "two computers and a thumb drive were confiscated."

An image of child pornography was found on the detachable drive that matched the image sent through AOL.

During a recent interview with Tarrytown’s Police Chief, Scott Brown, he recounted the events that led to Anthony Rypka’s arrest. "On Thursday, September 14, I received a call from the State Police telling me that one of our officers was under investigation surrounding a child pornography case," the Chief said. He was told that it would not be the Village’s investigation. Officer Rypka was arrested and arraigned in the Town of Greenburgh, then released on $15,000 cash bail posted by his wife. "By the action of Tarrytown’s Board of Trustees, Rypka was immediately suspended from the Police Department without pay. He turned in his shield, service handgun and off-duty weapon as well as five other handguns," Chief Brown added. Rypka’s Federal Firearms Dealer’s License accounted for the large number of handguns in his home.

Suspension without pay has permitted Officer Rypka to receive medical benefits for himself and his family. He is the father of twin girls, reportedly a little over a year old, and another girl who has just entered the school system. The 30-day suspension of pay will lapse on or about October 14 and his $76,604 annual salary may be reinstated while he goes through the labyrinth of legal maneuverings.

The effect of Rypka’s arrest had a stunning effect on the police force, according to Chief Brown. "I have been the Chief since 1994 and over the last 10 years we have had two other incidents where officers were suspended. One was a disciplinary case and the other was an alcohol abuse related offense. However, in the past 5 years we haven’t had any problems with our officers," he said. The shock of Rypka’s arrest saw the Department disseminating information to many residents who called, shaken by the news. The overriding concern was whether or not any local children had been photographed and had any of the children in the photographs been physically touched or harmed. A member of the police force had the opportunity to view the photos and reported that both boys and girls were in the photos but that no further comment could be made regarding the content of the pictures. "Presently, we’re able to say that no local children are involved," Chief Brown noted.

Overall, telephone calls in support of the Department and their efforts outweighed negative calls criticizing police in general. No special meeting has taken place among the Department’s thirty-five officers, however all personnel are aware that outside counseling is available should they feel the need to talk about the effect the incident has had upon them.

As for Anthony A. Rypka, he is scheduled to appear in Tarrytown’s Village Court on October 18 at which time it is believed that his attorney will ask both Tarrytown’s Judge McGovern and acting Judge Warhit to recuse themselves in the case. According to County District Attorney spokesman, Lucian Chalfen, this will necessitate the supervising judge in Westchester County, Francis Nicolai, to decide where the case will be heard. Rypka, a highly visible Tarrytown resident, police officer and volunteer fireman, faces a maximum of seven years in state prison on the "top charge."

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About the Author: Robert Bonvento