John Mallia, the Suffolk officer who with his police dog Blue uncovered the first human remains at Gilgo Beach, was among those honored Wednesday night for outstanding law enforcement work.
He received the commissioner's career achievement award with Blue in tow, the officer of the year award for the special patrol bureau and, with the entire canine unit, the critical incident award.
About 500 people were at the awards ceremony, including about 80 award recipients and county officials, including County Executive Steve Bellone, acting Police Commissioner Edward Webber and Chief of Department James Burke.
"In my view, you are the pride of Suffolk County," Bellone told the award recipients, "and I can tell you, you have made me proud every single day that I have been Suffolk County executive."
It was the 47th award ceremony for the 52-year-old police force.
"We are here tonight to pay tribute to heroes," added Bellone. "I believe that every person who puts on a uniform, every person who does that in my eyes is a hero. So to the heroes tonight, you are the heroes amongst heroes."
Among civilian recipients of public service awards were Dennis McCarthy, a UPS worker who saw a burglary in progress in Miller Place and notified police. The resulting arrest was of a suspect wanted in five other burglaries. Another civilian was Denise Vitale, who came across a car stopped in a dangerous intersection. She saw that the car held the driver and a small child in the back, and moved the car out of the intersection and away from harm's way, then called police. The driver was arrested on DWI and related charges.
Webber said of the civilians, "We in the police service are keenly aware that we cannot carry out our police mission without the cooperation and assistance of public-spirited citizens who often in times of danger respond magnificently without regard for their own safety."
Sworn officers who received awards included those who had apprehended fleeing suspects from bank robberies and those who suffered injuries on the job. Some rescued people from dangerous situations, such as boaters stranded in the water as with a capsized vessel, and others who made numerous arrests for drug and DWI violations.
Webber, who hosted the event, wrote in a prepared statement in the program that Suffolk residents "should know that they are well served by these courageous and professional police officers, who have performed above and beyond what is normally required."
John Flynn, the department's only living Medal of Honor recipient, attended the event. He risked his life in 1981 during a six-hour operation to rescue painters trapped in a 160-foot Suffolk County water tower.
Purple Heart recipient Sgt. Kenyon Tuthill, who in 1986 was shot in the face by a driver who had received traffic summonses from Tuthill, now retired, also was on hand.