Richard Vela dedicated to Valley Stream’s protection
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That’s the same assessment Auxiliary Police officer Mohammed Shaikh has of Vela: He has high expectations but treats his officers right. “He’s really good with what he does, really dedicated,” Shaikh said. “He’s married to the job.”
Vela takes his duty to keep Valley Stream a safe place very seriously, Shaikh added, which is why his standards are high for the officers. “We’re there to protect and serve the community,” he said. “You always see us around.”
Constantino said he takes pride in his appearance as a police officer because of Vela’s influence. “Just the way he appears in public, in his uniform, is a presence that had a big impact on me,” he said.
Vela also has a knack for spotting trouble, Constantino explained. He recalled a patrol about two decades ago, when Vela was training a new officer. They spotted a suspicious car and investigated. Vela could see the fear in the eyes of the four teens inside the car and called police. As it turned out, the car was stolen, and Vela’s hunch led to four arrests.
Vela and Constantino remain good friends to this day, nearly 20 years after Constantino left the Auxiliary Police. Vela is the godfather of one of his children, and their wives are good friends as well.
Constantino said that Vela puts the Auxiliary Police above all else. “He doesn’t do it for thanks. He likes what he does,” he said. “I don’t know anybody else that would put in the time and dedication that that guy does. I still say to him, ‘You’re putting in too much time.’”
Vela does have a full-time job as the village’s information technology specialist, and previously held a similar job with the county. He earned an associate’s degree in computer science and electronics from Nassau Community College, and went through the New York State Trooper Academy.
In his spare time, he enjoys hunting, finishing, mountain biking and hiking, as well as working with computers. But it is all those volunteer hours that everyone says define him. Denise said that her brother gets his devotion to the community from his parents, who would “give you the shirts off their backs.”