Riverhead police officers salute P.O. Dennis Cavanagh as he leaves police headquarters for the last time as an active duty officer.

Police officers from across the county turned out to honor Riverhead Police Officer Dennis Cavanagh today as he retired from the Riverhead Police Department after nearly 35 years of service.

Cavanagh, 62, joined the force in May 1986. A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, the highway patrol officer has been the Riverhead Police Department’s only motorcycle cop since 2003.

Cavanagh served on the board of directors of the Riverhead PBA and as a delegate to the Suffolk County Police Conference, which he served as president for three years.

“It’s been my honor and privilege to serve with you,” Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller told Cavanagh.

“You hold a special place in our hearts, as well as in the hearts of all members of the Suffolk County Police Conference.
You are our story teller, our mascot, our champion, our drill sergeant, our voice and, most of all, our best friend,” Hegermiller said. “Dennis, you will be truly missed. From all of us, I wish you a happy, healthy and a very, very long retirement.”

Officer John Morris, who as a rookie cop trained under Cavanagh, shared memories about his time spent with the senior officer.

“I learned the most important lessons,” Morris said. “How important it is to make sure you get home safe at the end of your shift. As cops we see some of the hardest things to see. He taught me how important it is to still be able to laugh,” he said.

“Thank you for your guidance and knowledge, but most of all thank you for your friendship,” Morris told him.

“The is the end of an era in Riverhead,” Morris said.

Cavanagh thanked all of the officers, friends and family members assembled outside Riverhead Police Headquarters.

Then, as his fellow officers stood at attention and saluted him, Cavanagh walked down the steps of headquarters. He was joined by his wife Wendy and his children, Nicole, Lucas and Reagan, all wearing masks imprinted with the Riverhead Police Department and Suffolk County Police Conference shields and the number 148 — Cavanagh’s badge number.

Police Officer Dennis Cavanagh with his wife Wendy, left, and children Reagan, Nicole and Lucas during his walkout ceremony today at Riverhead Police headquarters.

A Suffolk County Police helicopter flew overhead. The Eastern Long Island Police Pipes and Drums performed. Cavanagh took his radio in his hand for the last time as a uniformed officer, called into headquarters.

“Headquarters, this is HP-1.” After the dispatcher responded, Cavanagh, his voice heavy with emotion, said, “10-2-8,” using the police radio code for “out of service.” The crowd around him broke into applause.

“Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference,” the dispatcher replied. “Dennis Cavanagh never had that problem. I copy your 2-8 at 15:18. Godspeed.”

“10-4,” Cavanagh replied.

RiverheadLOCAL photos by Denise Civiletti

Support local journalism.
Now more than ever, the survival of quality local journalism depends on your support. Our community faces unprecedented economic disruption, and the future of many small businesses are under threat, including our own. It takes time and resources to provide this service. We are a small family-owned operation, and we will do everything in our power to keep it going. But today more than ever before, we will depend on your support to continue. Support RiverheadLOCAL today. You rely on us to stay informed and we depend on you to make our work possible.

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.