Protecting Suffolk

Long Island teen with bone cancer gets unforgettable police experience, becomes ‘Detective for a Day’

An American flag.

YAPHANK, NY — He served the police department as a detective, and did so with distinction, even though his tenure with the department was for less than seven hours.

Sean Dixon, 16, had both a swearing in and retirement ceremony on Tuesday. In between, he worked with the homicide bureau, the identification section, the aerial division and the K-9 unit of the Suffolk County Police Department. It was all part of an unorthodox ‘Detective For A Day’ program, set up expressly for the 16-year-old who is bravely fighting osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer.

“I was a little nervous, I’m not gonna lie,” said Dixon, describing his feelings as he walked into police headquarters. “But I was very excited.”

He walked on his crutches into the main briefing room of the headquarters building just after 10:00 a.m. His condition has led to his right leg being amputated as part of an ongoing fight over the last two years to be cured.

Police work has remained a strong attraction for the teen since he was a toddler, according to his family.

“He would want to follow an ambulance” when he heard one as a child, his mother, Kim Dixon told reporters. “He’s always been intrigued, to see if everybody’s okay.”

“It’s just interesting to me,” the high schooler said Tuesday morning about police work.

He participated in a ceremony during which Police Commissioner Timothy Sini swore him in. Chief of Department Stuart Cameron told gathered family members, friends and media that his department has Dixon’s back.

“Sean will have 3,000 people that care about him,” Cameron said, adding that the teen had joined a law enforcement department family.

Commissioner Sini presented Dixon with a badge, but it wasn’t just any badge.

“He’s a detective,” Sini said, “but I felt obliged to give him the commissioner’s badge.”

While that gave the aspiring cop special status in the department for the day, the commissioner made one point very clear.

“We expect that you will work, and work hard,” Sini told Dixon.

And work hard he did. In the homicide bureau, Dixon learned how suspects are questioned. In the I.D. section, he dusted for fingerprints and saw how DNA and other evidence are gathered and used. He also flew in the department’s helicopter and trained with the human officers and canine officers of the K-9 unit.

The road to Dixon becoming a detective began last month, he said.

“I was really surprised on my birthday,” said Dixon. “My mom and dad had this surprise birthday party and then Mr. Troyano pulled up this video at the end of the night.”

He was referring to Detective Ed Troyano, a veteran detective and close family friend, who had asked the SCPD top brass to host Dixon for the day. The commissioner and the chief were in. They recorded a YouTube video inviting the teen to join the detective bureau.

He did, in fulfillment of a goal that his grandfather said was long held. The teen’s grandfather, John Henderson, is a 35-year veteran of the neighboring Nassau County Police Department. He said that his grandson’s experience on Tuesday will resonate far longer than his dream so far to be a police officer has lasted. “The effect of this is going to last for the rest of his life,” Henderson told PIX11 News.

“It’s just so overwhelming,” Dixon’s mother said after the swearing in ceremony. “It means so much to live out his dreams, because we don’t know what tomorrow brings for any of us.”

For now, though, her son is a police detective with full honors.

“It feels good” he said, after his one-day retirement ceremony. “I’m a little tired now.”

“He worked hard,” Commissioner Sini interjected.

Dixon then summed it all up in six words: “It was a lot of fun.”

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