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Jan 24, 2012 12:26 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East End Police Departments Honor Top Cops

Jan 24, 2012 2:21 PM

Undercover drug busts, apprehending suspects accused of rape before they could flee the country and thwarting shooters while saving relatives in harm’s way were just a sample of the feats accomplished by East End police officers of the year.

Local men and women in law enforcement took a moment out of their uniformed duties on Friday night to honor their colleagues at the Kiwanis Club of Southampton Town’s 42nd annual police awards banquet, held at the Vineyard Caterers in Aquebogue.

Southampton Town Police Officer Eric Sickles was awarded the night’s top accolade, the Howard Stock Memorial Award. Named for a late Kiwanis member, the award goes to the club’s pick of the officer who demonstrated the most exemplary police work out of officers from 13 agencies.

Although he could not attend the ceremony, Officer Sickles was honored for his work as an undercover officer with his department’s now-defunct Street Crimes Unit. Officer Sickles bought heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and prescription drugs more than 50 times from 11 different suspected drug dealers, and his handling of confidential informants led to at least seven search warrants netting loads of narcotics and thousands of dollars of drug money, according to his department.

Officer Sickles shared the Southampton Town Police Officer of the Year award with Officer James C. Cavanagh. Officer Cavanagh, a 10-year veteran of the force, was praised for being a star officer in the busy Flanders, Riverside and Northampton communities, making 57 arrests during the first 11 months of 2011. This year, he climbed through a window during a domestic incident, preventing a boy from stabbing his brother with a knife and from striking a back-up officer in the head with a hatchet, police said.

Officer Cavanagh became the third member of his family to win such a distinction, following his father, Kevin, a retired State Trooper, who earned the distinction for his agency in 1983, and his twin brother, Dennis, a State Police investigator, who was honored in 2006.

New York State Troopers selected Investigator Steven Collins, who is stationed at the Riverside barracks, as their top cop of 2011. He made two arrests in similar sex crimes last year, troopers said. In one September case, he was able to gain the confidence of the victim through social networking. In the other, he was able to arrest a Flanders man accused of rape in December shortly before that man planned to fly to his Honduras home with a one-way plane ticket.

Southampton Village Police Detective Gregory Cornell was named his department’s Officer of the Year for the second time, having also won in 2004. The decorated detective, who is retired from the U.S. Air Force, arrested a man who police said stole $49,000 worth of exotic hardwood, solved a strong-arm robbery case involving a woman being accosted on a village street and having her purse snatched, cleared a man who was falsely accused of rape, solved several commercial burglary cases using DNA evidence, and was instrumental in the solving of last year’s islandwide art theft cases, police said.

East Hampton Town Police Officer David E. Martin, a 32-year East Hampton native, was honored as his department’s Officer of the Year after he arrested a Springs man who police said attacked and stabbed his estranged girlfriend in front of her children at her house in Springs in February, police said. Officer Martin, they said, was able to hold the man at gunpoint while coaxing him to drop the knife he was brandishing, and that he was able to move the victim and her three daughters out of the house to safety. His department praised his quick response in thwarting further violence.

Quogue Village Police bestowed its annual award to Officer Daniel Bennett in large part because his “line of questioning” when a May traffic stop on Montauk Highway for a fractured windshield and obstructed license plate led to the discovery that the motorist had a fake driver’s license in the name of a dead person, as well as other phony documents and credit cards, all of which he used for the unlawful purchase of a semi-automatic rifle and an assortment of other weapons, his department said.

In the Sag Harbor Police Department, Officer John Natuzzi claimed the Officer of the Year designation for following up on a call early last summer that had been canceled. He took the extra step to respond to the house anyway and found a woman lying behind a running car in a garage in what police determined was a suicide attempt. Because of his actions, Officer Natuzzi saved the woman’s life, his department said.

Westhampton Beach Police Lieutenant Trevor Gonce won his department’s award this year for specific attributes that Chief Raymond Dean said makes a model officer. Westhampton Beach did not attend the banquet, as Lt. Gonce is training at the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia, but Chief Dean said on Tuesday that Lt. Gonce earned this year’s distinction for his outstanding diligence and attention to detail. “He is a role model for what an officer should be,” Chief Dean said.

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