Chelsea’s finest are honored by Precinct Community Council

By Albert Amateu

An officer who made more than 40 arrests and executed warrant searches that uncovered caches of illegal drugs in Chelsea during the past 12 months won the Officer of the Year Award at the 10th Precinct Community Council’s annual dinner last week.

Officer Geraldo Rivera, a member of the 10th Precinct SNEU (Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit) received the Officer of the Year (2003-2004) accolade at the June 23 event at Fashion Institute of Technology. Of the 42 arrests cited in the award, 20 were for felonies. Rivera, who joined the Police Department four years ago, initiated three warrant searches in Chelsea in the past 12 months that uncovered a significant amount of drugs.

The community council made 14 other awards to 10th Precinct officers.

Officer Louis Scala, a 10-year veteran of the department, won the Arrest of the Year award. Scala was a member of an anti-crime plainclothes team that was following a pair of suspects on Aug. 6 last year. He arrested one of them who had a suspicious bulge in the waistband, which turned out to be a 9-.mm handgun. The suspect later was charged with having shot a robbery victim in Staten Island with the gun and with having taken part in more than seven Staten Island robberies, according to the citation.

The Community Council also honored Officer Vincent Pizzonia, who is retiring this summer after 20 years on the force, 19 of them in the 10th Precinct. From 1988 to 1998, he was in the precinct Community Patrol Officer Program (C-POP). Pizzonia earned a reputation as a neighborhood peacemaker and is renowned for knowing all the merchants and block associations in his Chelsea beat. From 1998 until the present, Pizzonia has been the 10th Precinct crime prevention officer.

Among Pizzonia’s arrests was the apprehension 12 years ago of Robert Sigmund who was charged and convicted of felonious assault for hitting a New York Post photographer over the head with a chair when she was photographing one of his Chelsea properties where residents complained about bad conditions. Pizzonia also took part in the undercover Operation John of the middle 1980s, targeting prostitutes and their clients around 10th Ave. north of 14th St.

The council made 12 Officer of the Month Awards to the following officers: Eileen Han, June 2003; Oscar Smith, July 2003; Brian Erbis, August 2003; Christopher Shaughnessy, September 2003; Robert Ramirez, October 2003; Keith Arcé, November 2003; Dennis Olenchalk, December 2003; Geraldo Rivera, January 2004; Ronald Castro, February 2004; D. Fantini, March 2004; William Hart, April 2004, and Kevin Cannon, May 2004.