Hero Down: Suffolk County Police Sgt. Dennis Reichardt Succumbs To 9/11 Illness
Mattituck, NY – Suffolk County Police Sergeant Dennis Reichardt died in the line of duty on Oct. 4, when he succumbed to cancer that developed following his service at the World Trade Center attacks on Sep. 11, 2001.
Sgt. Reichardt, 64, spent three months searching through the Fresh Kills landfill and the debris of the World Trade Center following the terrorist attacks, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
In April of 2017, he was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer, the Half Hollow Hills Patch reported.
He devoted his life to public service, and began his law enforcement career as a campus police officer at Stony Brook University, according to his obituary.
In September of 1982, Sgt. Reichardt joined the Suffolk County Police Department, and served five years as a patrol officer with the Second Precinct in Huntington.
After being transferred to the Recruit Training Section and Applicant Investigations Section, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant in 1993, the Half Hollow Hills Patch reported.
Sgt. Reichardt served the Sixth Precinct in Coram and the Fifth Precinct in Patchogue for several years before being assigned to the Special Patrol Bureau, according to his obituary.
For 11 years, Sgt. Reichardt was a supervisor for the Emergency Service Section, which conducted a variety of rescue missions, handled explosives, and executed high-risk search warrants, the Half Hollow Hills Patch reported.
During that time, he responded to the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks as a bomb technician, where he sifted through debris for the remainder of the year.
"Dennis was proud of his service, especially his time in the Emergency Service Section," Emergency Service Section Lieutenant Kevin Burke told the paper. "He was a good person and very considerate. This is a great loss."
Inspector Michael Shanahan said he has known Sgt. Reichardt since they were both new recruits back in the police academy.
"It sounds cliché but Dennis was the epitome of a cop's cop," Inspector Shanahan told the Half Hollow Hills Patch. "Dennis took great interest in the guys he worked with and believed family came first."
"He could show up at the most chaotic situation, but he had this calm about him and it was contagious," the inspector told Newsday. "It was reassuring and it would help us get to the resolution of whatever was going on."
During his storied career, Sgt. Reichardt received eight department recognitions, the Half Hollow Hills Patch reported.
He was also awarded a Police Combat Gold Medal – among the highest honors a sworn officer can receive – for his role in rescuing a barricaded person after a shootout in 2001.
"I had the pleasure of being the commanding officer of Special Patrol, which oversees the Emergency Service Section, while Dennis Reichardt was a sergeant," Department Chief Stuart Cameron told the paper.
"Even during dangerous and intense situations, Dennis always brought a sense of calm and earned the respect of his superiors and the people he led,” Chief Cameron recalled. “In his passing, we are unfortunately reminded of the dangers that still surround 9/11 for first responders.”
“I have no doubt even if Reichardt knew of the risks involved, he would still have responded to serve his country,” he added.
“He was a really kind, gentle soul,” the chief told Newsday.
Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart praised Sgt. Reichardt’s lifetime of public service, and noted that first responders are still suffering the effects of the terrorist attacks nearly two decades later, the Half Hollow Hills Patch reported.
“He served his country in its greatest hour of need and his sacrifice will never be forgotten,” Commissioner Hart said.
Sgt. Reichardt retired in July of 2011, having served his department for 29 years, according to his obituary.
“[He] was grateful for the opportunity to work at a job he loved and the honor of serving with so many members of the police family during his career,” his family said in his obituary.
Following his retirement, Sgt. Reichardt went to work as a school bus driver.
He leaves behind his wife of 25 years, Jean, as well as his children, Kristopher, Adam, and Autumn, and his grandson, Jack Henry.
Jean told Newsday that she first met her husband when she was a new recruit at the Second Precinct.
“His kindness was what stood out,” she said, recalling how he offered to lend her his flashlight and map as she nervously headed out for her shift.
“Thank you for all the wonderful years,” Jean told him in his final hours.
Sgt. Reichardt is also survived by his siblings, nieces, nephews, and many friends and extended family members, according to his obituary.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Suffolk County Police Sergeant Dennis Reichardt, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.