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Suffolk County Police

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Suffolk County police yesterday arrested a Kings Park man for allegedly impersonating a police officer in a Ronkonkoma hotel parking lot.

Two plain clothes officers saw a man sitting in a silver 2014 Hyundai Tucson in the rear parking lot of the Clarion Hotel, located on Veterans Memorial Highway.  Officers noticed smoke and approached the vehicle to investigate. Police said they allegedly smelled marijuana and noticed the man was wearing a police badge.  They interviewed the man, who allegedly admitted the badge was fake. The officers also claim to have found an expandable baton and a fake police chief placard in the vehicle in plain view.

Justin Conte, 43, of Kings Park, was arrested Feb. 15 and brought to the precinct. Police said they discovered he had a valid pistol permit with three weapons. Officers went to safeguard the weapons at his house, where they allegedly found three illegal guns including two AR-15 rifles and a 38-caliber revolver. Numerous other types of police equipment were also found, according to police.

Conte was charged with one felony count of first-degree criminal impersonation, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana, criminal possession of a firearm, and two felony counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon following the investigation by the 5th squad.

Conte will be held overnight at the 5th Precinct and is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 16 at First District Court in Central Islip.

The investigation is continuing. Anyone who has additional information is asked to contact the Fifth Squad at 631-854-8552.

More than 200 pints collected at 8th annual Glenn Ciano memorial blood drive

Suffolk County Police Officer Glen Ciano. File Photo.

Some consider finding a penny with a loved ones’ date of birth or a special anniversary a message from heaven. For Commack firefighters, there was a message in the 222 pints of blood that were donated Feb. 10.

Officer Glen Ciano was the 22nd member of Suffolk County Police Department killed in the line of duty. He died Feb. 22, 2009. Ciano was a 22-year veteran of the 2nd Precinct based in Huntington, which at the time had 21 patrol cars under its command. When Ciano died, the precinct retired his car and the next patrol squad car, No. 222, was named in Ciano’s honor.

“Everybody is saying there’s something going on, that Glen sent us a message,” said John Bicocchi, president of the Commack Fire Department. “It’s like he’s saying hello.”

“Everybody is saying there’s something going on, that Glen sent us a message”
— John Bicocchi

The fire department held its 8th annual Glen Ciano memorial blood drive Feb. 10, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Hundreds of Commack residents, firefighters and Suffolk County police officers lined up to donate.

“It is our honor to honor Glen in this way,” said Pat Fazio, commissioner of the Commack Fire Department. “Glen was someone who gave everything, 100 percent of the time and he gave it all.”

Ciano died while responding to a call for backup in 2009. While at the intersection of Vanderbilt Motor Parkway and Commack Road in Commack, his vehicle was struck by a 2007 Dodge Magnum and burst into flames upon hitting a nearby telephone pole. Commack firefighters responded to the scene.

Ciano is survived by his wife, Sue, and two children, Samantha and Daniel.

The driver of the Dodge Magnum, Jose Borbon, pled guilty to first-degree vehicular manslaughter and aggravated driving while intoxicated in November 2010.

Fazio said the Commack Fire Department renamed their blood drive after Ciano upon his death to honor his service to community residents and mentoring of firefighters in the fire department.

“By having a blood drive in [Ciano’s] memory, it’s a way for him to continue helping his community by supporting people and donating blood.”
— Stuart Cameron

“It’s wonderful they are continuing his memory in a most appropriate fashion by having this blood drive every year,” said Stuart Cameron, chief of department for Suffolk County police. “By having a blood drive in his memory, it’s a way for him to continue helping his community by supporting people and donating blood.”

Sue Lingenfelter, business development manager for New York Blood Center, said the organization has experienced a shortage of blood donations. Long Island needs nearly 800 pints donated per day and New York-Metro area 2,000 pints per day, according to Lingenfelter, to assure a steady supply for medical treatments and emergencies.

“Here in New York metro area, less than 2 percent of eligible donors give blood, which is the worst percentage of participation in the country,” she said.

This winter, Long Island’s blood banks have been negatively impacted by the influenza epidemic, cold weather, blizzards cancelling several blood drive events and government shutdowns.

“No one ever knows when they are going to need blood, but everyone expects it to be there,” Lingenfelter said.

Susan Ciano said she attends the event every year, talking to attendees about their memories of her husband.

“What I look forward to in February — it’s a tough month for me — is this blood drive,” she said. “When I go, I see many of the same people and many new people. I am there all day long because I want to thank people for giving their time.”

This post was last updated Feb. 15 at 2:08 p.m. 

Suffolk County police, Commack Fire Department to honor Glen Ciano at Feb. 10 event

Susan Ciano announces the 8th annual blood drive in memory of her late husband, former Suffolk County police officer Glen Ciano. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh.

Suffolk County police and Commack firefighters will be holding a blood drive to honor an officer who died in the line of duty.

The 8th annual Glen Ciano Memorial Blood Drive will be at the Commack Fire Department’s main firehouse on Jericho Turnpike Feb. 10, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“It is our honor to honor Glen in this way,” said Pat Fazio, commissioner of the Commack Fire Department. “Glen was someone who gave everything,100 percent of the time and he gave it all.”

Officer Ciano, a 22-year Suffolk County Police Department veteran who worked out of the 2nd Precinct in Huntington, died while responding to a call for backup Feb. 22, 2009. While at the intersection of Vanderbilt Motor Parkway and Commack Road in Commack, his vehicle was struck by a 2007 Dodge Magnum and burst into flames upon hitting a nearby telephone pole.

The driver of the Dodge Magnum, Jose Borbon, pled guilty to first-degree vehicular manslaughter and aggravated driving while intoxicated in November 2010.

Fazio said the Commack Fire Department renamed its blood drive after Ciano upon his death to honor his service to community residents and mentoring of firefighters in the department.

“It’s wonderful they are continuing his memory in a most appropriate fashion by having this blood drive every year,” said Stuart Cameron, chief of department for Suffolk County police. “By having a blood drive in his memory, it’s a way for him to continue helping his community by supporting people an donating blood.”

Ciano’s wife, Susan, said she attends the event each and every year, talking to attendees about their memories of her husband.

“What I look forward to in February — it’s a tough month for me — is this blood drive,” she said. “When I go, I see many of the same people and many new people. I am there all day long because I want to thank people for giving their time.”

The blood drive will be held at the main fire house, located at 6309 Jericho Turnpike in Commack. Donors must be between the ages of 16, with signed parental consent, and 75 years old, with doctor’s written permission.

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Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a motorcyclist in Selden Aug. 27.

Charles Ciapi drove a motorcycle out of a parking lot and onto Route 25 when he was struck by a 2013 Hyundai SUV traveling eastbound at approximately 9:45 p.m. Ciapi, 50, of Selden, was transported by ambulance to Stony Brook University Medical Center where he was pronounced dead, according to police. The driver of the Hyundai, Julia Leyboldt, 19, of West Sayville, was not injured.

Both vehicles were impounded for a safety checks. The investigation is ongoing. Detectives are asking anyone with information about this crash to call the 6th Squad at 631-8548652.

Ronald Kelly mugshot. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives arrested a man that was overpowered after pulling out a shotgun on store employees in Centereach Aug. 19.

Ronald Kelly entered Island Thrift, located at 1770 Middle Country Road, at approximately 8:25 p.m. He pointed a shotgun at the store manager and the five other employees of the store, and demanded money. The store manager, a woman, feared the situation was becoming dire, and grabbed the shotgun. Two of the employees joined the struggle, gained control of the shotgun and wrestled Kelly to the ground, holding him down until 6th Precinct police officers arrived.

The suspect suffered non-life-threatening injuries during the altercation and was transported by ambulance to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment. None of the employees were injured.

Kelly, 45, of Holtsville, was charged with first-degree robbery and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. He was scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip Aug. 20.

Former Suffolk police chief James Burke was arrested for using violent force with a suspect two years ago. File photo

A presidential visit to Suffolk County ended with the Suffolk County Police Department distancing itself from President Donald Trump’s (R) comments encouraging police officers to use more force with suspects at an event in Brentwood Friday, July 28.

“Please don’t be too nice,” Trump said to an audience of Suffolk County Police officers. “When you guys put somebody in their [police] car and you’re protecting their head, you know the way you put your hand over their head? Like don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody. I said you can take the hand away okay?”

Officers broke into laughter and applause after Trump’s remarks, however less than two hours after he spoke police departments and organizations throughout the country came out to condemn Trump’s words.

“As a department, we do not and will not tolerate roughing up of prisoners,” the Suffolk department said in a statement on Twitter. “The SCPD has strict rules and procedures relating to the handling of prisoners. Violations of those rules are treated extremely seriously.”

For Suffolk County, the subject of police brutality is especially important, as disgraced former police chief James Burke was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for use of violent force with suspect Christopher Loeb, along with attempting to cover up his efforts and more.

During the trial Loeb, who was imprisoned for a parole violation said the incident changed his life, according to a report from The New York Times.

“I will never again feel comfortable in Suffolk County, the place I used to call home,” he said.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) vowed to “reform [Suffolk County] governmentally and politically in a way that we can ensure this doesn’t happen again,” as a result of the details of Burke’s crimes becoming public.

Trump traveled to Suffolk to talk about efforts to eradicate gang violence, particularly with MS-13, which has been associated with violent criminal offenses in the past year in the county, especially in Brentwood.

Other police departments also condemned Trump’s rhetoric.

“To suggest that police officers apply any standard in the use of force other than what is reasonable and necessary is irresponsible, unprofessional and sends the wrong message to law enforcement as well as the public,” a statement from the New York City Police Department said.

One  police officer from Gainesville, Florida directly called out both the president and the Suffolk cops who cheered on his remarks.

“I’m a cop,” Ben Tobias said on Twitter. “I do not agree with or condone POTUS remarks today on police brutality. Those that applauded and cheered should be ashamed.”

Despite the reaction from the crowd, the Suffolk County Police Department was quick to distance itself from Trump’s remarks.

U.S. Rep Lee Zeldin (R) traveled with Trump throughout his trip to Long Island and praised the president for his efforts.

“This administration has taken a hard stance against gang activity, and it is imperative that we come together as one community in rejection of this violence which has claimed too many innocent lives,” he said in a statement. “It is our obligation to make eradicating this criminal organization a top priority.”

Zeldin did not respond to requests for comment regarding Trump’s encouragement of police using less restraint with suspects.

Outside the event Trump supporters were grateful to have the president come and focus on their issues.

Smithtown resident Angela Martinez spoke in support for the president.

“This is the best, Trump coming here,” she said in an interview. “This is supposed to be good for the Island, this is supposed to be good for the community. The community really needs to work together.”

Additional reporting contributed by Kyle Barr.

Emmanuel Dourthe and Reina Alecia were arrested at a traffic stop in Medford June 30. Photos from SCPD

By Desirée Keegan

Suffolk County Police arrested two people on drugs and weapons charges following a vehicle and traffic stop in Medford June 30.

Emmanuel Dourthe was driving a 2003 Honda Accord when Sixth Precinct Police Officer Keith Liere pulled over the car for a traffic stop on Mill Road at approximately 8 p.m. During Officer Liere’s investigation, he found a loaded and defaced 9mm pistol, one ounce of heroin, one ounce of crack/cocaine, drug paraphernalia, $1,240 and three cell phones.

Sixth Squad detectives charged Dourthe, 18, of Coram, with second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. His passenger, Reina Alicea, 20, of Lake Grove, was charged with fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, for possessing a switchblade, and fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana.

Dourthe and Alicea were held overnight for arraignment at First District Court in Central Islip.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is searching for ways to improve the county's financial outlook. File photo by Alex Petroski

Suffolk County’s current and future financial outlook has been a topic of conversation for months, and a nonprofit founded to ensure government transparency is taking notice, following County Executive Steve Bellone’s (D-West Babylon) presentation to the state Senate and Assembly representatives in Albany Feb. 14.

Bellone visited the capital last week to discuss Suffolk’s “daunting” fiscal challenges going forward. Among his eight points addressed during the presentation was a request for authority from New York State to obtain bonds for separation pay of law enforcement officers for 2017 and 2018, a point of contention raised repeatedly by Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga). Reclaim New York, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established to “educate New Yorkers on issues like affordability, transparency and education,” echoed a similar sentiment to Trotta’s following the presentation.

“Suffolk County has a problem: it spends too much on its police department,” a Feb. 15 post on the organization’s blog said in part. “Its 2,397 officers were paid an average of $161,463 last year, far more than any other county, or town police officers, or Nassau County’s police, for that matter. Spending reached this level after years of political action by the police, who spent in 2015 more than $600,000 influencing local elections–from one PAC alone. Now, having fallen behind on those expenses … Bellone is proposing borrowing $60 million because the county doesn’t have enough cash for payouts on unused sick and vacation time, that Suffolk cops were promised years ago.”

Doug Kellogg, the organization’s communications director, said in a phone interview Reclaim New York doesn’t currently have plans to begin a project or campaign pertaining specifically to the police contract, which the county and the Police Benevolent Association agreed on and which runs from 2011 to 2018, but they do plan on monitoring Suffolk’s budget and financial outlook going forward.

“It’s really starting to get out of control,” Kellogg said. “The path can get worse.”

Trotta has said in past interviews he feels like he’s alone in calling out the county’s financial situation relating to the police department contract.

“The county finances are in total shambles,” Trotta said during an interview in his Smithtown office Nov. 15. “[The other legislators are] sticking their head in the sand. They’re not addressing the real problems. No one wants to address the problems. You need colossal change.”

Following the meeting, Trotta said it was “typical” of Bellone to ask to borrow to pay for the retirement pay for police officers. He added he’s been in contact with Reclaim New York and plans to work with them to inform the public about the county’s finances.

“I’m going to work with them because together we could get the word out to the public on how bad it really is,” Trotta said in a phone interview. “The title says it all — we need to take back New York.”

Vanessa Baird-Streeter, a spokeswoman for Bellone, said in a phone interview the request regarding bonds for separation pay was just a small part of his presentation, but if obtained the funds would improve public safety.

“In the future we’ll be able to hire more police officers to ensure our county is safe,” she said.

Bellone’s presentation also included a justification for borrowing to close the budget gap.

“Allowing for this five-year bonding will allow Suffolk County to protect taxpayers and public safety by smoothing out the expense associated with an anticipated increase in retirements,” he said. “Bonding will allow Suffolk County to retain the resources and fiscal flexibility to continue to hire new officers, which is critical to maintain public safety and save taxpayer dollars over several years.”

A look at the county budget by the legislature’s budget review office in October resulted in a warning.

“The county’s structural deficit is increasingly driving our decisions,” the office’s director Robert Lipp said in the review. “The county sets a bad precedent when paying for operating expenses with borrowing.”

Stephen Ruth Jr. reached a plea deal for tampering with red light cameras, which will place him on probation for a year in lieu of prison time. Photo from Stephen Ruth Jr.

The merry adventures of Suffolk County’s “Red Light Robin Hood” continued last week as the Centereach resident who took matters into his own hands by tampering with red light cameras across county intersections struck a plea deal with prosecutors. The agreement reached will place him on interim probation for one year in lieu of any prison time.

Stephen Ruth Jr., who has been crusading against the county’s red light camera program since 2015 in an effort to “take the power back” by exposing what he considers government corruption and helping save Suffolk resident’s lives — for which he’s been called a domestic hero on social media — pleaded guilty in Riverhead Feb. 8 to a felony charge of criminal mischief.

Red light cameras along Route 25A, which is where some of the cameras were located that Stephen Ruth Jr. tampered with. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Since the county first installed red light cameras at busy intersections in 2010, which snap flashing photos of cars that run a red light or don’t come to a complete stop before turning right on red, they’ve been widely opposed across the county.

Ruth, who’s become the boastful face of the opposition — as evidenced by his smiley mug shot after first tampering with the devices in 2015 —has consistently called for the program’s repeal before the Suffolk County Legislature. He said the cameras and shortened yellow lights, “shortened to cause red light running for a profit,” are responsible for fatalities and accidents on the roads, have been illegally constructed without an engineer signing off on them, and are nothing more than a Suffolk County “money grab.”

“I was willing to go to jail from the beginning because I’m sticking up on behalf of those people who don’t have a voice anymore,” Ruth said. “These cameras are completely illegal and the [county] is not allowed to collect any money off them whatsoever … I knew this was going on and made my own news.”

Under the plea deal, Attorney David Raimondo said if Ruth successfully completes his probation, the felony plea will be dropped to a misdemeanor.

Stephen Ruth Jr.’s mug shot. File photo from SCPD

The 44-year-old real estate salesman may also have to pay up to $85,000 in restitution for all the cameras and equipment he’d left inoperable — a charge that will be challenged during a restitution hearing in April. Raimondo said he and his client will fight because “we believe that the entire red light camera system program is illegal and every single ticket issued from day one is a nullity.”

In the wake of the court ruling, Raimondo acknowledged that it was a good plea.

“This is something the county has to atone for and will atone for in civil litigation … it is not Stephen’s or his family’s cross to bear,” Raimondo said. “Why should Stephen sacrifice his personal freedom for what I think is nothing more than enterprise corruption?”

As Ruth has always worn his criminal tampering and obstruction of governmental administration as a badge of honor — even proudly demonstrating on his YouTube channel how he uses a painter’s extension rod to reach high-positioned red light cameras to turn its lens away from the road — Raimondo applauded his client for always taking responsibility for what he’s done.

“While I absolutely don’t condone or approve of any form of violence or destruction of property, I admire Stephen’s willingness to bring attention to the public the failures in the engineering behind the camera and how it’s affecting the taxpayers as a penalty and tax,” he said. “I [especially] admire that Stephen brought to the public’s attention the fact that the yellow light times have been shortened by the engineers because unfortunately people have been seriously injured and perhaps killed as a result.”

Red light camera. File photo

Ruth, in calling for a full investigation into the camera program to prove it’s an illegal operation, also wants to spotlight that the county continues to delete videos of any and all accidents that take place at intersections.

James Emanuel, a retired Suffolk County police officer, has dedicated himself to researching and testifying against the program, and is one of Ruth’s avid supporters.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of police officers who privately are a big fan of what he did,” Emanuel said. “You get to the point where you have to push back against the system; you just don’t have a choice. The guy saw a danger and his attitude was, ‘I’m gonna push back.’ He turned himself in every single time and he didn’t have to do that.”

In regards to Ruth’s plea deal, he said the county wants to prevent the program from being put on trial.

“There are thousands of infuriated people,” he said. “How would they find a jury of 12 people that wouldn’t find Stephen not guilty?”

Suffolk County Leg. Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) said she understands Ruth’s strong feelings and acknowledges that red light cameras, although useful in some intersections, are overused and costly.

“I think what Ruth thought he was doing was making a statement, and he clearly did make a statement,” she said. “But you have to stay within the parameters of the law to make a statement that’s not going to get you in big trouble.”

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