One officer pulled a suicidal man out of his burning vehicle, another established her precinct’s relationship with the Latino community and a detective built a homicide case by starting with just a common name.
Forty-one Suffolk police officers, one Nassau police sergeant and a civilian security guard were honored as heroes Wednesday night at the Suffolk County Police Department’s annual awards ceremony in Brentwood.
Police Commissioner Timothy Sini called their accomplishments “acts of greatness,” while County Executive Steve Bellone said the officers represented an “unbroken chain of heroes and sacrifices.”
“I assure you that without your acts of professionalism, compassion and heroism,” Sini said, “chaos, violence and misery would abound.”
Many of their stories had been the stuff of news. Five officers received silver bravery medals for kayaking in the night to plane crash victims screaming in the waters off Port Jefferson earlier this year. Two were recognized for rushing into a burning home to save a man and a teenager.
One of those officers, Matthew Merced of the Sixth Precinct, also received a second award for meritorious police service after saving a man who had set himself and his car on fire in October.
“It’s a very humbling experience,” Merced, 41, said after the ceremony. “This is part of what we do every day.”
One of the precinct Cop of the Year recipients was Danielle DiMonda, whose identity was revealed publicly for the first time as the Third Precinct officer who chased and shot a carjacker last year as he tried to steal a woman’s car with her two young children in the back seat.
“Police Officer DiMonda’s brave actions did rescue two children . . . and protected them from being taken by a stranger,” said police academy Sgt. Kevin Clark as he introduced the officer.
Many other cases have never been publicized, partly because the investigations are ongoing, police said. In another meritorious police service award, a drug arrest by a Fifth Precinct plainclothes officer led to the seizure of 10 defaced stolen handguns, a storage unit full of stolen artwork and an investigation into the illegal sales of prescription drugs.
More than 300 people sat in the audience to cheer the officers, including spouses and children who pray every day for the safe return of their loved ones.
Merced’s two daughters each left holding one of their father’s awards, impressed but not star-struck at seeing their father on stage twice.
“The first thing I thought was how he looks so short,” said Carolyn Merced, 14.
To the audience who heard of his exploits Wednesday, Merced is a hero. His daughter Ava, 10, however, sees him as the father who brings home stories about his work: “I knew all that.”