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Work We Do: Dennis Cavanagh, Riverhead highway patrol officer

Hi, I’m Dennis Cavanagh.

I am the Riverhead Police Department’s highway patrol officer. I’ve been with the police department for 32 years and this is my 16th year [in highway patrol]. 

Generally when I come in I work two tours. I work either from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. or from 3:30 to 11:30 p.m.

Everything I do is strictly vehicle and traffic — issue summonses, investigate accidents. I also have other duties. I take the calibrated instruments up to be calibrated. I do commercial vehicle enforcement three times a month with the New York State DOT and state police. God forbid something bad happens during the day, I will definitely assist the job on the road.
I try to concentrate on the cellphones, texting while driving, which is very difficult to do because you have to see the operator texting while driving.

Mainly I do any type of speed enforcement, school zones, Long Island Expressway — we have a little piece of that — [Route] 58, stop signs, all types of things like that.

I have both [a motorcycle and police car]. I don’t do enforcement with the motorcycle, I generally use it, unfortunately, for funerals or ceremonial. I do have my own police car that I use daily.

The enforcement of the vehicle and traffic laws serves everybody. Not just the community. I’m talking the motoring public. Vehicle and traffic enforcement is a necessity. If you don’t have it, people will go rogue.

There was one [memorable] case that happened 10 years ago. I had this woman come up to me … She says to me, ‘Are you a police officer?’ I said yes. She goes, “I can’t believe it’s you. You saved my life. You came to my house once on domestic dispute … You gave me some advice and I took that advice. Fortunately he was put in jail, you actually saved my life.”

Things like that are very rewarding.

I never thought that living in the Town of Riverhead could give me such reward for being here.

I’ll tell you, I’ve said it 100 times, the best thing that ever happened to me in 1986 was when they said, “You’re hired.”

I’ve been here for 32 years and I thank the town for letting me do that for that long.

“The Work We Do” is a Riverhead News-Review multimedia project profiling workers on the North Fork. It is made possible by Peconic Landing. See more photos on Instagram @riverheadnewsreview.