Featured Story

Riverhead officer makes history by becoming first female lieutenant in department’s history

Danielle Willsey always wanted to be a police officer. And now she’s made history as a member of the Riverhead Town Police Department.

The 15-year veteran of the department became the first female lieutenant, earning a rank that’s the third highest position on the force. The Riverhead Town Board on Wednesday unanimously voted to appoint her to the position.

“I feel very fortunate,” said Lt. Willsey in an interview. “I’ve had a good career so far and hopefully it continues to go this way.”

The Town Board also voted to promote officer James Welsh to the rank of sergeant. The two promotions fill the vacancies left by the recent retirements of brothers Dave and Tom Lessard.

“Congratulations, this is a great honor, to be moved up from the rank of sergeant to lieutenant,” said Councilman Tim Hubbard, a former town police officer. “It’s a proud day for you and your family and we’re very proud of you as a Town Board. We’re proud of all the work that you’ve done and how you’ve climbed up the ranks. We really appreciate your hard work.”

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, a former sergeant in the New York City Police Department, congratulated both officers.

“I know how hard you worked,” she said. “I took the sergeants test and the lieutenants test and I passed them, but they were not easy. You have a great police department and you will continue to have a great police department, and be safe and continue to serve your community well.”

Lt. Willsey was only the second female sergeant in the department’s history when she was promoted in July 2018. She followed the footsteps of Sgt. Jill Kubetz, who earned the rank of sergeant in February 2015, making history in the police department. The town did not have any female officers prior to 1989. There are now eight full-time female officers in the department.

“I would encourage everyone who wants to move on to study hard,” Lt. Willsey said. “Riverhead Police Department is a great place to work.”

The department has seen a high number of retirements in the past year and another position will soon to be filled as well. Longtime K-9 officer John Doscinski will retire as of Nov. 7. He’s worked most recently with his K-9 partner Titan.

Ms. Aguiar said that three officers were sworn in Monday who worked as New York City police officers. Those officers can begin immediately since they do not need to go through the police academy.

The town still has another K-9 team with officer John Morris.

Ms. Aguiar said the town has hired 19 new officers this year.