Retiree brought Sheriff's office training to the "next level," union president says

Suffolk Correction Lieutenant Ends 43-Year Long Career




William Berry, who joined the Suffolk County Sheriff’s office as a correction officer in 1977, was given a ceremonial walk-out on Thursday. Independent/Courtesy Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s office marked a lieutenant’s retirement — a career spanning four decades — with a ceremonial walk-out on Thursday.

Sheriff Errol D. Toulon Jr. and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s office honored Correction Lieutenant William M.G. Berry who started his career in 1977 when he was one of the few African American officers in the Sheriff’s office. A walk-out ceremony is a tradition among law enforcement to see retiring law enforcement out. Toulon said Berry’s was particularly special because of the length of his career.

Toulon presented Berry with a proclamation, which said, in part, “His service to the Suffolk County Sheriff’s office will not be forgotten.”

Correction Lieutenant William Berry, center, with his wife Gilda and Suffolk County Sheriff Errol D. Toulon Jr. Independent/Courtesy Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office

After 43 years on the job, Berry is hanging up his uniform.

“You have seen a lot the past 43 years, some of the best times in law enforcement and some of the worst,” said Lou Viscusi, the Correction Officers Union president who also spoke at the walk-out. He pointed to Berry’s last post as the executive officer of the Sheriff’s Academy Bureau, where he was in charge of in-service training and elevated it to the “next level.”

“Of your many accomplishments throughout your career, I believe your most recent part in transforming our training academy will be the one that we will benefit from the most, long into the future,” Viscusi said. “Our training program now includes a comprehensive Supervisor Training course, additional training dealing with inmates who have mental health disorders, peer counseling for our fellow officers and most recently the development of our Fair and Impartial Policing course.”

Berry worked for several years in the private industry before taking the Civil Service exam to become a correction officer in 1975. Sheriff John P. Finnerty hired him after a two-year waiting period. In total, he worked under six administrations, including Sheriff Eugene Dooley, Sheriff Patrick Mahoney, Sheriff Alfred Tisch, Sheriff Vincent DeMarco and Sheriff Toulon.

He has worked at both the Riverside and Yaphank Correctional Facilities as a correction officer, then was promoted to sergeant in 1989. He worked as a floor sergeant in the Riverside jail and then decided to become an instructor at the Sheriff’s Academy. He earned a certificate as an instructor of adult education at the BOCES Harry B. Ward Technical Center in Riverhead, where he taught students a course on how to prepare for civil service exams. He also instructed a number of Suffolk County Correction Officer recruit classes in the proper use of handcuffs and the techniques utilized for conducting a proper pat down frisk.

In 1991, he was assigned to the Yaphank jail as the deputy sergeant on the midnight shift, where he assisted the duty lieutenant in daily operations. Meanwhile, he continued his education by taking criminal justice courses at Suffolk County Community College. He also successfully completed a “train the trainer” course given by the New York City Department of Corrections and later completed the Municipal Police Training Council police instructor course given at the Suffolk County Police Academy.

Even still, he found some spare time to volunteer as an emergency medical technician with the Brentwood Legion Ambulance and taught probationary EMTs on emergency vehicle driving techniques.

In March of 2001, Berry was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and assigned to work the midnight shift at the Yaphank jail, where he worked as the duty lieutenant until March of 2018. He was assigned to the Sheriff’s Academy Bureau and Community Relations Unit in Brentwood.

“I know you well enough to know that you will not sit around in retirement. I’m sure you will continue your service to the community and leave a lasting impression wherever you go,” Viscusi said before presenting him a gift from the union.

Bagpipes played as Berry walked out of the Riverside facility for the final time, holding the hand of his wife Gilda Berry. Command staff, correction officers and Sheriff’s deputies lined the walkway and clapped.

taylor@indyeastend.com