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After 31-year career, Riverhead Det. Frank Hernandez retires

A longtime Riverhead police detective is calling it a career after more than 31 years.

The department held a “walkout” ceremony last Thursday for Detective Frank Hernandez, during which he was greeted by past and current co-workers as he descended the stairs at police headquarters. On Jan. 30, Det. Dixon Palmer received the same treatment to mark his retirement after about 35 years on the job.

“Commitment to the town like that is unbelievable,” said Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith. “We wouldn’t be the town we are without that kind of commitment from our police officers.”

Mr. Hernandez was the named the department’s Officer of the Year in 2015, when he was the lead detective on two downtown bank robberies and helped save a Marine suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from committing suicide in Calverton.

He was the Riverhead Police Benevolent Association’s first-ever Officer of the Year recipient in 1991 and the town labor management committee’s Riverhead Town Employee of the Year in 2004. He received the PBA’s Member of the Year award for 2017.

Over the course of his career, Mr. Hernandez worked in the Community Response Unit, which targeted drugs in the town; was a sector patrol officer; worked for the U.S. Marshal’s Task Force; and pursued a number of high-profile cases like the 1994 Osborn Avenue arson that killed five children and the sniper that terrorized Riverhead and Riverside in 1988, according to Officer Dennis Cavanaugh, who was master of ceremonies for the walkout ceremony.

“You don’t often get people like that, folks,” Mr. Cavanaugh said. “He’s like a comet; you only see him once in a lifetime, if you ever do.”

Mr. Hernandez joined the Riverhead force in 1988 and was promoted to detective in 1998.

“When you get hired, you don’t realize how you become part of a family and how tight we are,” he said. “It’s an honor to work with you all.”

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