On Sunday, Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas delivered a brief but passionate speech.
Addressing a few hundred people on Jesup Green — a local response to the murder, a few days earlier, of George Floyd — Koskinas read a statement condemning the Minneapolis police officers.
Then he went further. He apologized personally to the Floyd family, for the way their loved one was treated by police.
It was a defining moment, and drew sustained applause. But many in the crowd were not surprised. They were Westporters. They know their chief is honest, straightforward, a man of integrity and conscience.
The crowd the next day was less familiar with Koskinas.
Unlike Sunday’s protest, Monday’s took the Westport Police by surprise. But — led by Koskinas — they were ready. They acted professionally, providing an escort across the Post Road bridge, and watching quietly as several dozen massed in front of the police station.
Then — surrounded by the crowd — Koskinas spoke.
He talked of his personal disappointment in his law enforcement colleagues in Minnesota. “I marched with you,” the chief said. “This was not a publicity stunt.”
Some people jeered.
“I’m a first-generation immigrant. I came here not knowing a word of English,” Koskinas — who came to Long Lots School in 7th grade from Greece — said. “I was a minority.”
The chief said he was devastated “by what happened in Minneapolis — by that officer, and 3 others who did not act.”
Koskinas — who at one time wanted to be a lawyer, but turned to law enforcement after taking a criminology course in college — added that he is even more devastated when the public is afraid of the police.
Someone interrupted him again. He continued, talking about systemic issues in American society. Koskinas cited our health system too. “Black people don’t get the same type of care” as white people,” he said.
This time, no one jeered or interrupted. Instead, the entire crowd cheered.
There are many ways to lead. Chief Foti Koskinas’ does so with both words and deeds.
In a week when some police departments are under scrutiny, our chief is our Unsung Hero.
(Hat tip for video and inspiration: Lynn Untermeyer Miller)