Riverhead Police Officer Dennis Cavanagh was the keynote speaker at the 2014 Riverhead CAP march. File photo: Denise Civiletti

The Riverhead Police Department is losing a 35-year veteran this week, with the retirement of Police Officer Dennis Cavanagh.

Cavanagh, 62, joined the Riverhead Police Department in May 1986. The U.S. Marine Corps veteran is the department’s only motorcycle cop — and has been the only motorcycle cop since 2003, when the town bought the bike.

Policing has changed in many ways since he became a police officer, Cavanagh said. The biggest changes have come as a result of technology, he said.

“But interacting with people is still there” and remains a central part of “hands-on police work,” he said.

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Riverhead Police Officer Dennis Cavanagh poses for a group selfie with Pulaski Street School students after the 2014 Riverhead CAP march.

“I see a lot more of ‘smarter’ policing than when we came on,” the officer said. Psychology and social services play a bigger role today, he said. “You assist people a lot more than when I first came on. It never ends with just the police. There’s always another level,” Cavanagh said.

Police work is tough work, he said. An officer never knows what they’re going to confront in any given situation, Cavanagh said.

“Anything can go wrong in the blink of an eye,” he said.

De-escalation training is important and it’s something Cavanagh says Riverhead does very well.

“I’ve never met a cop that wants to get up in the morning and kill somebody,” he said. “That’s not what police work is all about.” People become police officers because they want to serve their communities, he said.

Cavanagh, a father of three, said he and his wife Wendy look forward to traveling a bit. He has a friend who moved to Alaska that he’d like to visit.

He said he’s always been a runner and enjoys working out and he’ll probably spend more time doing that.

“I’m going to work — but I ain’t getting a job,” Cavanagh said with a laugh. “I can’t sit around. They say if you sit around, you rust,” he said.

“Dennis Cavanagh is one of the best police officers I’ve ever worked with,” Riverhead Councilman Tim Hubbard, a retired Riverhead Town Police detective, said yesterday as he cast his vote to accept Cavanagh’s retirement.

“As one cop to another, the best compliment you can ever say is he’s a cop’s cop. Dennis is a true cop’s cop,” Hubbard said. “He has worked tirelessly in the Town of Riverhead. I wish him nothing but the best in his retirement. He will surely be missed.”

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.