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Life-saving effort helps net ‘Officer of the Year’ honors for two cops

A Sept. 19 water rescue of a man floating face down in the waters off Grangebel Park in Riverhead helped two police officers receive “Officer of the Year” honors at Friday’s 49th Annual Police Awards Ceremony by the Kiwanis Club of Southampton.

Riverhead Officer Richard Freeborn and state Trooper Michael Masino were each named their department’s Officer of the Year in part due to their combined efforts to save the man, who was successfully brought back to life.

The awards ceremony has been held annually by the Kiwanis Club of Southampton, which initially gave the awards to just Southampton officers but eventually expanded it to the entire East End. The ceremony was held at the Sea Star Ballroom in Riverhead this year.

The Officer of the Year recipients are chosen by the local departments.

The Sept. 19 incident took place at about 5 p.m. that day, when police received a call from someone who had seen a man fall into the water at Grangebel Park, according to Detective Sergeant Ed Frost. The caller said the man was floating face down in the water and that he was unable to retrieve him.

Officer Freeborn and Trooper Masino both arrived on the scene and worked together to locate the 44-year-old man, who was unresponsive at the time. They both entered the water, just south of 57 West Main St., and pulled the man out, Sgt. Frost said.

From there, they began CPR and were able to regain a pulse from the victim, who began to breathe on his own, Sgt. Frost said.

The victim was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center by Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance, where he was given emergency treatment and admitted for observation, and he is “currently living,” Sgt. Frost said.

Both Sgt. Frost and Captain Jose Febo of the State Police said their choice for the Officer of the Year award went beyond this incident.

Trooper Masino is a 15-year veteran of the State Police who is a state leader in vehicle and traffic law enforcement, Captain Febo said. He had issued so many tickets the captain decided to review them.

It turned out the tickets he was issuing were not just routine traffic stops, but were for the types of incidents that lead to fatal accidents and serious injuries, Captain Febo said.

“He’s writing tickets to the most egregious violators you can find on the road,” Captain Febo said.

Trooper Masino also worked with East End Drug Task Force and the Federal Bureau of Investigation on cases that led to felony indictments against 13 “highly violent drug traffickers” on the East End, Captain Febo said.

Officer Freeborn has been with the Riverhead police since 2001 and has served on the East End Drug Task Force, as well as the Community Oriented Police Enforcement (COPE) unit, where he is currently assigned, Sgt. Frost said.

“He is a leading officer in the Council for Unity, which is our anti-gang program in the high school, and he is also a liaison to the Suffolk County Correctional Facility,” he said.

Officer Freeborn is also a School Resource Officer, which is a new program when an officer is assigned to local schools.

“I think it’s fitting that we jointly present this award with the Riverhead Town Police Department,” Captain Febo said. “It’s reflective of what’s going on out in the community, as far as the cooperative nature of our agencies.”

Captain Febo said the level of cooperation among agencies “is something I’ve not seen in my career of 25 years.”

Photo Caption: Det. Sgt. Ed Frost (from left to right), Officer Richard Freeborn, Trooper Michael Masino, and Capt. Jose Febo.

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