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Dec 11, 2009 9:44 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Police honor their own

Dec 11, 2009 9:44 AM

Thwarting potential suicides, restarting stopped hearts and uncovering drug stashes—these are some of the deeds that earned Southampton Town Police officers awards at the department’s annual meeting December 3.

At the town’s community center in Hampton Bays, Southampton Town Police Chief James P. Overton and Captain Anthony Tenaglia awarded 19 officers with Headquarters Recognitions, one of the department’s highest honors, for the outstanding deeds that they performed in 2009. They also doled out other awards to those who arrested the most drunk drivers, completed the department’s physical challenge, and met or exceeded the demands of their jobs in other ways.

“On behalf of myself, the town and the residents of the town, I wanted to thank you for the professional job you do,” Chief Overton said, addressing the approximately 50 officers in attendance. “I’m very proud of you.”

Officer James Cavanagh, 49, of Water Mill earned the department’s Police Officer of the Year award for his general conduct on the job, according to Lieutenant Robert P. Iberger, who chairs the department’s awards committee. Mr. Cavanagh, who has served on the force for six years, said he was stunned.

“It’s all of you folks out there that really deserve this award, not so much me,” he said while addressing the department.

Lieutenant Iberger said Officer Cavanagh responded to 974 calls and made 19 arrests so far in 2009, and that he regularly follows up on police reports regardless of whether or not they are likely to be solved. He is also the department’s firearms instructor, and he often tutors weaker shooters in his spare time, Lieutenant Iberger said.

Officer David Peters, 37, who lives in Brookhaven Town, earned a Headquarters Recognition Award for receiving five Headquarters Recognitions over his six-year tenure with the department. He is also a former Police Officer of the Year.

The Headquarters Recognition Award is one of the highest achievements at the department, according to Captain Tenaglia.

Seven officers also received the Impaired Driver Enforcement Award, which is a “recognition of aggressive DWI enforcement,” Lieutenant Iberger said. To earn the award, officers had to have made a minimum of 12 arrests related to DWI, driving while impaired by drugs, driving while impaired by alcohol, or similar charges in a given year, Lieutenant Iberger said.

Among the officers who received Headquarters Recognitions this year were Officers Richard Garafola, 40, of Speonk, and Patrick Aube, 39, of Hampton Bays who rescued a man after he crashed his vehicle into a tree in East Quogue in May. Officers Garafola and Aube pulled the man from his van and extinguished a fire that was smoldering under the vehicle, according to an account by Lieutenant Iberger. Officer Garafola has been on the force for five years and Officer Aube has been on the force for 16 years.

Another Headquarters Recognition was awarded to Officer James C. Cavanagh, 30, of Hampton Bays, who shares a first and last name with the officer who was named Police Officer of the Year, though they are not related.

In July, Officer Cavanagh prevented a man from committing suicide in Flanders after he noticed a car parked on the side of a road while on patrol one night, according to an account by Lieutenant Iberger. Officer Cavanagh found the driver semi-conscious, apparently trying to asphyxiate himself with his vehicle’s exhaust. Officer Cavanagh pulled the man from the car and administered first aid. The man was hospitalized though he survived the ordeal, according to Lieutenant Iberger.

“Had he driven by and not stopped, it’s likely that this guy would have succumbed to his attempt,” Lieutenant Iberger said.

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