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Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Richard Vela dedicated to Valley Stream’s protection
(Page 2 of 4)
Andrew Hackmack/Herald
Richard Vela, commander of the Valley Stream Auxiliary Police, is the Herald's 2012 Person of the Year.

Vela schedules not only the routine patrols, but also the court nights and special details. He is responsible for making sure officers have the proper training and resources to do their jobs.

Fare described Vela as very task-oriented, someone he can rely on to complete an assignment. “I’ve always found him to be dedicated and unassuming,” Fare said, “the kind of guy who gets the job done without a lot of fanfare.”

William Martin, the recruiting officer for the Auxiliary Police unit, noted Vela’s dedication. “The guy puts in a lot of time — three, four nights a week, sometimes five,” Martin said. “Anybody that survived 30 years and doesn’t get paid deserves to be the man of the year.”

Nassau County honors Auxiliary Police officers who devote a certain number of hours to the job. Vela has a bar for 15 years of service with at least 500 volunteer hours in each. He also recently earned a 1,000-hour bar. Over the years he has been presented with two Commissioner’s bars, four Excellent Service Awards and more than 250 unit citations, recognition awards, special service awards and command recognition awards.

The day after Hurricane Sandy passed through, Vela learned of an elderly woman who was trapped in her home on Hungry Harbor Road. Floodwaters prevented her escape, and also prevented rescuers from reaching her. Determined to get her to safety, Vela recruited some National Guardsmen and, using a Guard humvee, they managed to get to the woman’s home and pull her out.

After the storm, most of Valley Stream remained in the dark. Vela made sure there was a heavier Auxiliary Police presence to prevent crimes of opportunity. “This is what you’re here for,” he said. “The people were very appreciative of us being out there.”

In the week after the storm hit, Vela put in about 80 hours of unpaid work, according to his fellow officers.

Adam Constantino joined the Auxiliary Police unit at 17 when Vela was a sergeant. He went on to become a police officer, and now works with Nassau County’s mounted unit. Constantino said that Vela was well respected, and tough but fair. “He would give you a task, expect that it would be done,” he said.

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