By Danny Schrafel
Northport native Matthew Merenda is continuing a proud family tradition of service in law enforcement.
Merenda, 27, has been on the beat as a Northport Village police officer for the last two weeks, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, a retired NYPD officer. He graduated from Suffolk County’s police academy on June 15.
Being entrusted with serving and protecting his hometown, he said, is a special privilege.
“When they gave me the opportunity to come home to Northport, I jumped at that,” Merenda said. “It was a great opportunity, and I want to do what I can.”
Merenda is a former military police officer in the U.S. Air Force who joined the service in 2009 and served for four years. He was stationed in Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas, and also served a six-month tour in Saudi Arabia.
Merenda’s military service set the gears in motion to becoming a cop.
“The whole reason I joined the military was because I wanted to become a cop,” he said. “I decided: go to the military, get some experience there.”
A 2005 Northport High School graduate, Merenda joins a team of 17 full-time officers, headed by Lt. Bill Ricca and Police Chief Ric Bruckenthal, who plans to retire this fall.
“It seems like he’ll be a wonderful addition to the village,” Bruckenthal said.
Like Merenda, many Northport officers are residents of the area; Bruckenthal said he sees Merenda’s parents frequently in church.
“Very few people were out-of-towners,” he said, estimating about 90 percent of his officers live in the village or very close by. “If they weren’t hometowners, they become hometowners, and they have a vested interest.”
During his first weeks, Meredna has been responding to traffic accidents, handling arrests and learning the ropes from the more seasoned officers. He earns the rookie pay of $47,268 and can earn as much as $121,500 a year after 10 years of service.
The new officer said the love of the community he works in – his community – is a major motivating factor to succeed.
“You want to keep it peaceful and what it is and do what you can to keep it like that,” Merenda added. “I want to help the community. I want to be active in it.”