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Top Stories 2016: Positive stories about Riverhead police

Byron Perez

Highlights of the good work conducted this year by the Riverhead Town Police Department include rescuing a sleeping man from a burning mobile home, helping a group of stranded teenagers and hiring its first full-time cop of Hispanic heritage.

Officer Byron Perez’s story — the son of a farm laborer from Guatemala who grew up to become his hometown’s first full-time Hispanic police officer — is reflective of the quintessential American Dream. But Mr. Perez doesn’t want special treatment.

He’s a cop first and foremost, he told the News-Review, just like the department’s other officers.

They include Sgt. Harry Hill, Sgt. Jon Devereaux and officer Brian Clements, who helped a group of teenagers this past summer when they became stranded after a trip to Splish Splash.

Sierra Mitchell, a black high school senior from Brooklyn, said the national conversation about policing in the U.S. is a topic of conversation among her friends — some of whom don’t trust the authorities. But on July 25 — one day after the aforementioned officers helped Sierra and her friends make it home to Brooklyn — the 17-year-old said she wanted to make sure they were praised.

Officers Anthony Montalbano and James Lydon were also honored this year after rescuing a sleeping man from a mobile home fire on July 31. Mr. Montalbano — who also helped rescue a man from a frigid Peconic Bay River in December 2014 — and Mr. Lydon, who saved children from a burning home along the riverfront shortly after joining the force — attributed the success story to a well-coordinated effort between the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps and Riverhead Fire Department.

File photo: Officer Perez speaks Spanish with a man outside the Riverhead Police Department. The man, who needed to pay a traffic ticket, had asked Mr. Perez for help, something the cop says happens often when he encounters Hispanic residents. (Credit: Paul Squire)