For the fifth year in a row, East Hampton Town Police Officer Vincent Rantinella made the most DWI collars in the entire department of 62 sworn officers.
Rantinella was among the 24 police officers who work in Suffolk County honored at the annual Top Cop Awards Ceremony for making the most DWI arrests in the county during 2012. The ceremony was held at the Suffolk County Community College’s West Campus on Tuesday morning.
Gregory Turzer, a deputy sheriff, had the most individual DWI arrests in Suffolk County with a total of 108, according to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's office.
Rantinella made 27 DWI arrests this past year, "the most that I can remember in the course of the year," said East Hampton Town Police Chief Chief Ed Ecker.
Since 2008, Rantinella has consistently made the highest number of DWI collars on the force, even in 2011, when he only worked half the year after he actually fell victim to a drunken driver. On Memorial Day weekend that year, he was hit by a wrong-way driver in Ridge after working a DWI shift.
Rantinella returned to work in January 2012, after seven months of recovery. He suffered a broken sternum and leg injury as well as multiple lacerations and underwent at least three surgeries.
"For him to come back, just the fact that he came back to work is a miracle in my opinion," said East Hampton Town Police Chief Ed Ecker. "He convalesced — He's got a very strong family support system —he really persevered," Ecker said. "He came back to work, it's like he never skipped to beat. We're proud to him, we're lucky to have him, and the Town of East Hampton is lucky to have him."
Rantinella has nearly doubled the amount of DWI arrests he made the first year he received the Top Cop award. Ecker said it was either 14 or 15 — a figure near where about a dozen or so cops are usually at, he said. In 2010, Rantinella made 20 DWI arrests. In 2011, the year he only worked six months, he made 11, the chief said.
The jump to 27 arrests is a credit to Rantinella's aggressive DWI enforcement, Ecker said, as well as the fact that he picked up more DWI shifts this past year. He was one of the officers selected to be on the inaugural Suffolk County District Attorney's DWI Task Force.
The officer has also be nominated for the MADD Long Island 2013 Law Enforcement Recognition award, which will be given out in April, Ecker said.
Sag Harbor Village Police Officer David Driscoll — who was also Sag Harbor's 2012 Officer of the Year — and East Hampton Village Police Officer Steven Sheades were also honored for making the most DWI arrests in their departments.
Each officer received a proclamation from the Suffolk County Legislature.
At the ceremony on Tuesday, Bellone spoke about the importance of stopping motorists from driving drunk and the impact DWI related deaths have on the families of the victims. Advocates from Mothers Against Drunk Driving were also present, speaking about how to support victims of drunken driving tragedies.
The county takes part in the Special Traffic Options Program for Driving While Intoxicated (STOP-DWI), a program specifically designed to reduce the incidence of alcohol-related traffic fatalities and injuries in New York State. The program is supported through fines collected from individuals convicted of alcohol-related traffic infractions.
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Correction: Officer Rantinella has had the most DWI arrests of anyone in the East Hampton Town Police Department since 2008, not 2009, as was originally reported.