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Top cop

Officer Robert Burton mostly likes to keep a low profile in the Suffolk Police Department.

However, his supervisor, Sgt. Mike Mackenzie, ruined all that when he nominated Burton for a 2009 Police Officer of the Quarter.

Burton received the fourth-quarter award and went on to be named Police Officer of the Year in a police department ceremony earlier this month.

“It took me by surprise,” Burton said. “I truly like to remain behind the scenes.”

Burton, who has been with the Suffolk Police Department for almost six years, was assigned to John F. Kennedy Middle School as a school resource officer this year. He had previously patrolled the streets and served in the schools part-time.

A full-time position in the schools allows Burton to make a positive impact on more young people before negative influences get to them, he said.

“It’s a foundation for me to reach out and have a positive impact on other people,” he explained.

The 49-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran, who has three grown children of his own, provides a straight-laced influence for children who may be veering toward a negative path.

“It does take a unique personality to be able to coexist within that element,” Burton said. “It makes it possible to have some impact at a young age on the students. They know not what truly waits for them out there.”

During a typical day, Burton might break up a fight, investigate drugs in the school or simply stop a child from running in the hall. He also takes the time to mentor students whenever he gets the chance, and he encourages them to start thinking about their career choices early.

“I do recruit for corporate America,” he joked. “I try to push that, to not wait, but have plans for the future early.”

Burton also encourages the children to avoid physical confrontations and always do the right thing.

“Always try to do the right thing, especially when there’s no one looking,” Burton says he tells the students. “If you do it knowing that you have an audience, it’s not genuine.”

In his year in the school, Burton says he is sure he has made a difference in students’ lives, but may not find out about it until years from now.

“Somewhere down the road, they’ll tell you what kind of impact you had,” Burton said. “That motivates me.”

Others honored at the police awards banquet were:

Emergency Communications Operator of the Year — ECOS Rosalind Britt

Police Officer of the Year — Officer Robert Burton

Supervisor of the Year — Sgt. Sandy Springle

2009 Police Officers of the Quarter (Officer of the Year was chosen from among Officers of the Quarter)

First Quarter — Officer Eric Crawley

Second Quarter — Officer Sergey Solodyankin

Third Quarter — Officer Jesse Epperson

Fourth Quarter — Officer Robert Burton

Department Commendations

Officer Jason Price

Officer Eric Crawley

Detective Kevin Hutt

Sgt. Robert Ross

Detective Carlos Gonzalez

Officer James Goben

Detective John Jones

Officer Jason Lyons

Sgt. Edward Bender

Officer James Sober

Officer Jesse Epperson

ECO Cathy Click

Officer Frederick Panton

Officer Paul Hutta

Officer Brian Hearn

Officer Ryan Linville

Citizen Awards

Randy Sorge

Monica Holland

Jessie Kimbrough

Lavoskia Torain

Chris Follin

Pete Irizarry

Quheem Lassiter

Leon Hamlin

Noteworthy Performance of Duty Awards

Detective Kevin Hutt

Officer Sergey Solodyankin

Officer Jason Lyons

Sgt. Timothy Smith

Officer William Shockley

Lt. James Buie

Officer Scott Spencer

Officer Robert Swan

Officer Andrew Fenneman

Officer Michael Holman

Officer Thomas Camp

Officer David Heroux

Investigator Isaac Lopez

Sgt. John McCarley

Officer Eric Crawley

Detective John Jones

Officer Cassandra Osteen

Officer Nicholas Thompson

Officer Jennifer Protzeller

Officer Tyron Langston

Officer Lamont Greer

Officer Jason Carr

Officer Jesse Epperson

Officer William Phippins

Officer Phillip Johnson

Officer Ronald Colby

ECOS Nicole Duncan

ECO Erin Hughes

ECO Gloria Harper

ECO Jodi Holliman

Call Taker Carmen Brown