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Suozzi honors life-saving police officers

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U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi held a press conference on Monday outside the Glen Cove Police Department, alongside police and local officials, on Monday, at which he honored five police officers who recently saved lives: Darren Pittman, of the Glen Cove Police Department; Keith Owens, of the Nassau County Police Department; Christopher Jablonski, of the Suffolk County Police Department; and Michael Ippolito and Lauran Creighton, of the New York City Police Department.

Pittman, a Glen Cove resident, was honored for saving the life of an NCPD officer who also lives in the city last Nov. 9. At 4:20 that morning, Pittman received a distressing text message from the officer, a friend. After talking with him on the phone, Pittman concluded that he was contemplating suicide, and called the GCPD for backup. Then Pittman, still in his pajamas, drove to his friend’s home.

He found him in a vehicle, holding a handgun. Realizing that the officer was about to take his own life, Pittman lunged for the gun and wrestled it away. The officer became hostile, but was subdued by backup GCPD officers and taken to a hospital for evaluation. The officer is currently receiving treatment, but has made a full recovery, and is back at work.

According to GCPD Chief William Whitton, there were a record number of suicides among New York police officers last year. Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder commended Pittman for saving a fellow officer. For his efforts, he was awarded the NCPD Medal of Valor, which, Whitton said, had never been given to an officer outside the NCPD’s ranks. Glen Cove Mayor Tim Tenke also honored Pittman with a Certificate of Recognition from the city.

Addressing the five honorees, Suozzi said, “You are being recognized as examples for us to hold up for all of society to see in these many and varied stories that we tell today of the great work that our police officers are doing.”

Pittman said he was full of emotion when he responded to the call, but made every effort to make sure that his fellow officer was safe. He was proud, he said, that his efforts, and those of his fellow GCPD officers, succeeded.

“It felt great,” Pittman said. “That officer is like a little brother to me. We still talk every day, and whenever he needs something, he gives me a call.”

He recognized the gravity of the NCPD’s award, he said, adding that it was something that he never expected. “It felt amazing,” he said. “I was very surprised myself. I’ve never heard of it going to anyone other than Nassau officers, so it was an absolute honor.”

Tenke said that Pittman’s willingness to do everything he could to save his fellow officer was worth recognizing, and that he knows Pittman is the kind of person who will be there no matter what, ready to take charge of any situation.

“I am very, very proud of him,” Tenke said. “We are lucky to have him in our city and in our Police Department. Darren is really representative of what officers all around the country do that they don’t get recognized for, and they really should be recognized.”

Pittman is not only exemplary in his ability to de-escalate dangerous situations, Tenke said, but also serves as the GCPD’s liaison to the Glen Cove City School District. He visits the schools and teaches students about respect, bullying prevention, how to stay away from drugs and alcohol and how to be a good citizen.

All of the officials agreed that police across the country are currently the focus of a great deal of controversy. Suozzi said he was proud to honor officers who serve as examples of the good things police officers do.

“It just came together perfectly,” he said. “We need to do this type of stuff when we’re in this time of everybody just yelling and screaming at each other. [We need to ask], how can we work together to actually solve these problems and make people’s lives better?”