What started as a call for a domestic disturbance on State Street quickly transformed into a life-or-death situation for Ryan Maloney and Matthew Hoy in February 2012.
The two veteran Schenectady police officers were responding to the dispute when they found a fire had been deliberately set inside a second-floor apartment. Even worse, they realized many of the residents in the three-story building were home as the flames began to rapidly spread.
Maloney and Hoy were able to clear the residents, but then found themselves trapped on the third floor by choking smoke that had filled the building and reduced visibility to a minimum. Maloney was able to kick out a front window, allowing him and Hoy to be rescued by city firefighters who had arrived with a ladder truck.
Both officers were recognized for their selfless actions with a citation for bravery Wednesday during the department's Valor Day Awards Ceremony. Chief Brian Kilcullen credited Maloney — now a detective — and Hoy for their exemplary service.
"Their quick actions led to the successful evacuation of all the residents in the building," Kilcullen said during the ceremony at Proctors' GE Theater. "Detective Maloney and Patrolman Hoy risked their lives in order to save the lives of others, which is the benchmark of public service."
They weren't the only Schenectady cops recognized for charging into a burning building last year. Derek Sherman and Corey Shields dashed into a burning State Street building in April 2012, clearing out a number of residents, among them a man with a heart condition that would have doomed him in the fire. In awarding them a citation for bravery, Kilcullen described them as a credit to the rest of the department.
"The actions of these officers bring great credit upon themselves and the Schenectady Police Department," he said.
Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett lauded all of the officers for doing an incredibly difficult job — one that increasingly puts them in harm's way. He said any one of the more than 250 calls officers respond to daily throughout the city could result in a life-altering situation or a brush with death.
Bennett said calls like the recent fire on Hulett Street that killed a father and three of his young children wear heavily on even the most hardened officers.
"These are the days you hope you don't have to go to work because they bring with them some very vivid memories that never go away," he said.
The ceremony recognized dozens of others on the force for contributions that ranged from military service in combat zones overseas to tireless work in cracking difficult cases. Others were credited for putting their lives on the line to save others.
Sgt. Michael McLaughlin and Patrolman Kevin Derkowski were recognized for their valiant efforts to pull an elderly Waterford woman from a vehicle as it teetered on a couple of rocks, partially submerged in the frigid waters of the Mohawk River in November 2011. The two were joined by fellow officers Brandon Kietlinski, Michael Pommer, Bret Ferris and Ryan Kent to form a human chain down to the area where 84-year-old Mary Conroy sat lifelessly in her vehicle down an embankment near North Ferry Street.
Kilcullen said the officers were able to check Conroy's vital signs and were trying desperately to free her from the car when it slipped into the river. Though Conroy couldn't be saved, each of the officers were recognized for mustering a heroic rescue attempt in a perilous situation.
"These officers were not tied off to anything and showed a dedication to duty and a willingness to risk their own safety in an attempt to preserve life," Kilcullen said.
Another officer received recognition for his police work while off-duty. Sammy Quinones had been on the force less than a year when he noticed something suspicious at the Trustco Bank branch on State Street in Niskayuna earlier this year.
The rookie cop spotted a man acting suspiciously and covering his face with what appeared to be a towel in the Mohawk Commons in March. Quinones alerted authorities and tracked the man to a Winston Place location, where he was met by fellow officers. Arrested was Robert Costello, a 31-year-old transient who was later charged with robbing a Pioneer Savings Bank on Route 7 in Colonie.
Kilcullen presented Quinones with a citation for exceptional merit for being alert and taking the right actions to facilitate the arrest.
"Patrolman Quinones’ awareness and quick response to suspicious activity led to this arrest," he said.