Riverhead PBA honors top cops at annual awards ceremony

Detective Frank Hernandez received the Riverhead Police Benevolent Association Member of the Year award Friday night during a ceremony at the Long Island Aquarium.

The PBA handed out multiple awards during the ceremony, which featured command awards and life saving awards for specific incidents. Police Chief David Hegermiller presented the awards.

Det. Hernandez has been a member of the department for more than 30 years and was a recipient of a PBA award earlier in his career when they first began, according to PBA president Dixon Palmer.

“I’ve worked with you for a number of years, and you are one of the best cops I’ve had the privilege of working with,” Det. Palmer said Friday.

Traditionally, the chief picks an overall officer of the year, which is given at the annual East End Police awards held by the Southampton Kiwanis Club, and the PBA selects its own recipient. Officer Matthew Neknez received the Kiwanis Officer of the Year award last week.

It’s an award Det. Hernandez actually won as well in 2015 for his role in saving the life of a Marine suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder who attempted to commit suicide. Det. Hernandez was off-duty and walking his dog at the time.

Among some of the recipients of the “command” awards Friday were K9 officer John Morris, who helped track down five suspects after a robbery with the assistance of his police dog, Rocky. Police had responded to Osborn Avenue on the night of Sept. 4 to find a victim who reported several people had assaulted him and forcibly removed cash and credit cards, police said at the time. The K9 followed a track that led to the suspects who were found west of the incident, police said.

The suspects arrested ended up facing multiple charges, including felony robbery. On suspect was also found to have a loaded firearm at the time of the arrest, police said.

Officer Charles Cichanowicz received an honorable mention for his role in that case, Chief Hegermiller said.

Officers Daniel Hogan and Richard Freeborn also were awarded for their investigation that led to the arrest in March of two men on numerous drug charges, as well as charges of assault and menacing, according to Chief Hegermiller. The suspects were found to have quantities of heroin, crack cocaine and marijuana, police said at the time.

Other officers who received “command” awards were Charles Silleck, for his role in a robbery investigation that lead to two arrests on Dec. 28, 2016; Officers Sean Mackie, Scott Wicklund, Kevin Gradischer and John Doscinski, for their role in an arrest in a residential burglary on Dec. 8; and Detective Dino Isgro for his investigation that lead to an arrest in March after a suspect robbed an elderly couple outside Walmart.

Life saving awards went to Officer Dana Lefebvre, who helped save the life of a man in cardiac arrest while she was off duty on the Cross Sound Ferry on Dec. 26; Mr. Silleck and Raymond Laporte, who saved the life of a woman who attempted suicide on Nov. 23; and Officers Daniel Walther and Kaley Castantine, who used CPR and an AED to revive a man who was in cardiac arrest on Nov. 4.

“There’s a lot of people who didn’t get awards, but you guys and gals do a great job out there, day in and day out, putting your life on the line to make Riverhead a great place,” Chief Hegermiller said.

Photo caption: Frank Hernandez, receives the Riverhead PBA member of the year award Friday from PBA president Dixon Palmer. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

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