Police officers salute as the coffin of Det. Sgt. Robert...

Police officers salute as the coffin of Det. Sgt. Robert Reecks is carried into the Mother Theresa Tribute Center where a funeral was held for the fallen officer who died in a car crash. (Aug. 11, 2011) Credit: James Carbone

A leader in the fight against hate. A dedicated professional. A man who genuinely cared about others.

That was how Det. Sgt. Robert Reecks' colleagues and friends remembered him Thursday at a funeral that included a solemn salute by scores of officers in dress-blue uniforms.

Reecks, a 30-year veteran of the Suffolk County Police Department and supervisor of the hate crimes unit, was killed before dawn Saturday when his unmarked police car crashed into a bridge support on Sunrise Highway in Moriches. He was 57.

After the Lake Ronkonkoma funeral, Chief of Detectives Dominick Varrone described Reecks as a "dedicated professional -- unpretentious and passionate about his work." He was, Varrone added, "a man of principle."

Reecks, one of the few black supervisors in the department, helped connect the force "to all of the minority communities in this county, especially the African-American community," Varrone said.

Varrone was one of many Suffolk law enforcement officials, including Police Commissioner Richard Dormer, who attended the service at the Mother Teresa Tribute Center at Moloney Funeral Home and Crematorium.

About 150 officers stood in salute, their white gloves gleaming in the sun, as the hearse carrying Reecks' coffin arrived shortly after 10 a.m.

There was a hush among the hundreds assembled, broken only by the buzz of a police helicopter passing over the funeral home. A half-dozen officers serving as pallbearers saluted before slowly lifting the coffin. As they entered the chapel, bagpipers played "Amazing Grace."

Reecks' widow, Rita, and other family members followed. Mourners filled the small chapel to capacity for a brief ceremony that featured only the remarks of Pastor Roderick Pearson of St. Mark Remnant Ministries in Central Islip.

Pearson, a close friend, urged those in attendance to "continue to fight his fight, continue to fight against violence . . . continue to show love to one another."

Afterward, Leslie Anderson, a former Suffolk assistant district attorney, praised Reecks' "tenacity" in helping to win convictions a decade ago in the near-fatal beatings of two Mexican day laborers from Farmingville.

Colleagues in the hate crimes unit extolled their former boss' leadership.

"He was a good man," said Det. Patricia Keller. "He always reached out to whoever needed help."

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