Three environmental conservation officers from Suffolk County were among 27 fellow officers and other law enforcement professionals statewide recognized for their “distinguished actions” in upholding conservation laws, as well as protecting public health and safety, DEC officials said.
Officers Matthew Foster, Ronald Gross and Kevin Holzle, who work for the state Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Law Enforcement, were named Monday in Albany as recipients of the agency’s law enforcement awards for distinguished service, presented every three years.
DEC officers “are the state’s first line of defense in protecting the environment and safeguarding natural resources,” said Basil Seggos, the agency’s acting commissioner.
Statewide, officers were recognized for a wide range of actions while on duty including busting shark fin trading activity in Brooklyn, saving the life of a 2-year-old boy who had stopped breathing in upstate Oswego County, and uncovering toxic dumping,
Gross was recognized with the Law Enforcement Lifesaving Award. The officer, who patrols large swaths of Suffolk and is based out the agency’s Stony Brook office, saved the life of a man attempting suicide in Oak Beach in June 2014.
Responding to a Suffolk police radio call on a body washed ashore at Oak Beach, Gross arrived and joined a retired highway patrol officer who had made the initial discovery, according to the ceremony’s program.
Gross realized the man, mostly submerged under rocks of a jetty, was still alive and holding bladed weapons. Told to drop the weapons, the man “began to cut his own throat in an attempted suicide,” the DEC said. Gross, along with Suffolk County Marine Bureau personnel, disarmed the man and rescued him from the water.
DEC officials recognized Foster and Holzle with the Fred P. Drew Award for outstanding marine enforcement efforts.
Holzle is assigned to marine patrol for an area stretching from Nassau’s border with New York City to Montauk. Foster is based in upstate Lewis County.
Working with the Nassau and Suffolk district attorney’s office and state and federal authorities, the officers exhibited “investigative skills and perseverance” related to marine fisheries infractions. Eight defendants were charged with 39 felonies and nine misdemeanors under state law, as well as federal charges, according to the award program.