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Riverhead, Southampton police departments honor officers of the year

It wasn’t any particular arrest that led to Riverhead Town Police Officer Matt Neknez earning the department’s Officer of the Year honors. What made him stand out was the constant professionalism and consistent policing record since joining the department full-time in 2015.

In those three years, Officer Neknez has totaled over 225 arrests and issued more than 2,500 summonses.

Ninety one of those arrests were made in 2017, making him the department’s top cop. He also had the most summoneses in the department last year, with 797, and ranked third in driving while intoxicated arrests, Captain Richard Smith said.

“Officer Neknez hit the ground running when he was hired and has shown no signs of slowing down,” Capt. Smith said.

Officr Neknez was honored Friday at the Southampton Kiwanis Club’s 48th annual East End Police Awards dinner at the Sea Star Ballroom at the Hyatt Place East End.

“It’s an absolute honor, an absolute privilege,” Officer Neknez said. “The men and women in the department hold the line every day, protect the citizens and keep the town safe. It’s an absolute pleasure.”

Capt. Smith called Officer Neknez, who began working with the department part-time in 2011, an “unofficial leader” and said it was also his respect for the public that earned him this year’s honor.

Just days after choosing Officer Nenkez as this year’s honoree, Capt. Smith received a letter from a man the officer had arrested earlier in the year. It was his first time being arrested and he had shared with Officer Neknez his fear for his teenage son’s reactions when he learned the news.

“Once again Matt, I thank you for all that you did to help me that night, and for the days afterwards when I was getting so depressed and was brought back out of it by your words,” the letter read. “Thank you does not seem adequate enough, and yet I cannot say it enough times.”

Officer Neknez said his favorite part of the job is getting to help others.

“I honestly just really enjoy helping people,” he said. “I like holding people accountable, unfortunately, sometimes for their misgivings. And just working with the town and working with the people.”

Southampton Det. Timothy Wilson, right, is honored by Captain Lawrence Schurek. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

The Southampton Town Police Department, which polices the Flanders and Riverside communities, reserved its honors for Detective Timothy Wilson, who rescued a disoriented woman from a home that caught fire in March.

Det. Wilson had just arrived home to his wife and six children after a day of work when a call came over of an open fire in Hampton Bays. Although off duty, Det. Wilson responded and immediately realized the home was occupied, Captain Lawrence Schurek said.

Det. Wilson entered the home, with the rear engulfed in flames, and brought the sole occupant to safety. He then re-entered the burning home in an effort to save the woman’s dogs. He was able to save one before the smoke became lethal and he had to exit, Capt. Schurek said.

It’s the first time Det. Wilson was chosen as Officer of the Year in 16 years with the department.

“I’m very honored to be here,” he said. “I’m very honored to be chosen.”

Capt. Schurek noted it wasn’t just this save that earned Det. Wilson Officer of the Year honors.

“Detective Wilson is a pitbull and has the ability to work complex and heinous crimes to their successful conclusion,” Capt. Schurek said, noting the numerous burglaries, robberies, rape cases and other crimes the detective solved last year.

One that stood out was Det. Wilson’s involvement in a lengthy investigation — included numerous interviews, interrogations, search warrants and a ride to New Jersey — that culminated in arresting a suspect on 46 counts of violent domestic assault.

Det. Wilson also arrested a “defrocked priest” for the molestation of a 6-year-old girl, secured an indictment of a suspect involved in an armed home invasion and took another suspect into custody for an armed robbery at a take-out restaurant, Capt. Schurek said.

“This type of bravery and public service is what defines all of us as law enforcement professionals and we owe Detective Wilson a debt of gratitude for representing our entire profession in such a courageous and devoted manner,” he said.

Top caption: Police officer Matt Neknez receives his honors from Captain Richard Smith and Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith.

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