When Southampton Town Police Officer Michael Walsh pulled over vehicle that had excessive tinted windows Oct. 17 on Flanders Road in Riverside, he soon learned the driver was also in possession of weapons and drugs.
Mr. Walsh found two pistols and an assault rifle in the car, as well as a loaded Ruger 9mm pistol that had its serial numbers illegally removed. The weapon was found in a hidden compartment located between the rear seat and a stereo.
A quantity of cannabis, also known as hash, was located inside the car.
For his intuitive thinking and other work he’s done with the department’s Community Response Unit (CRU), Mr. Walsh has earned the Southampton Town Police Department’s 2016 Officer of the Year Award. He was honored Friday at the Southampton Kiwanis Club’s annual East End Police Awards dinner at the Sea Star Ballroom in the Hyatt Place East End.
“I’m very proud to work with great men and women,” Mr. Walsh said. “I’m really honored to be the department’s pick for Police Officer of the Year. I work with some people that I’m amazed with what they do each and every day.”
Captain Larry Schurek presented him with the award and noted his overall work ethic.
“He’s an intuitive officer,” Capt. Larry Schurek said. “He’s relentless. He just never stops. He has a positive attitude — I wish I had 30 more of him.”
In addition to the drug and weapons arrest he made in October, Mr. Walsh wrote over 500 traffic summonses last year and made 135 arrests — over 50 of them were drug related.
He’s also a member of the department’s CRU, which focuses on protecting the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton areas. Southampton police doubled the size of the unit last year, Capt. Schurek added.
“He is a dedicated individual who provides exceptional police service to our community,” he said about Mr. Walsh, who has worked as a police officer for eight years. “He loves his job and he loves to serve the community.”
Additionally, two officers with the Riverhead Town Police Department — Anthony Montalbano and James Lydon — were named the department’s 2016 Officers of the Year for rescuing a sleeping man from a mobile home fire on July 31.
The officers responded to a report of a fire around 4:10 p.m. at Oakland Ridge Mobile Home Park on Osborn Avenue, where they found smoke and flames.
Mr. Lydon, aware that the park’s mobile homes are fueled by propane tanks, began evacuating neighboring residents, while Mr. Montalbano attempted to gain entry through the front door.
But the more he kicked at the aluminum door, the more it became stuck as the metal bent. He then went over to a window and pushed in the air conditioning unit. When he didn’t see anyone, he went to another window and pushed in a second A/C unit.
That’s when he found a man sleeping in a smoked-filled bedroom and pulled him out through the window, Captain Richard Smith said at Friday’s event.
“There is no doubt that these officers’ actions saved this gentleman’s life,” Capt. Smith said.
Mr. Montalbano, who is in his fourth year with the department after serving six years with the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department as a deputy, was also named the Police Benevolent Association’s Cop of the Year earlier this month.
He was also honored Friday for his assistance in detaining a barricaded subject last summer.
“I’m proud to accept it,” Mr. Montalbano said after receiving the award. “That incident was one of many good things that happened in the department during the year. Everything we do, we can’t do without help from your coworkers.”
During Mr. Lydon’s career, he was a member of the department’s Street Crime Unit and worked in the East End Drug Task Force. The veteran police officer received his award only days shy of his retirement, which will take place Tuesday after serving the department for 35 years.
“It’s pretty routine — stuff like this happens every day,” he said of the fire rescue after receiving his award. “On this particular occasion it was something my bosses thought a great deal of. There was a lot of people who were considered for different things and they settled on us, which is very gratifying.
“It’s a storybook ending for my career.”
Top photo: Michael Walsh, right, received the Southampton Town Police Department’s 2016 Officer of the Year award Friday night from Captain Larry Schurek, left. (Credit: Nicole Smith)