Remembering Vinny Penna

Westporters have been stunned by the death yesterday of Vincent Penna, apparently of a heart attack. He was 51 years old.

A police officer for 26 years, he retired as deputy chief in 2017. He began as a patrol officer, became a detective in 2001 and sergeant in 2006, then returned to the detective bureau in a leadership role before being named deputy chief.

Along the way he served on the Westport Police tactical team, and was a field training officer, certified firearms instructor and professional standards commander. As captain he oversaw all operations of the detective bureau, including DARE, the Regional Task Force and Domestic Violence Victims Unit.

As deputy chief he was responsible for the Westport Emergency Medical Services, Internal Affairs Division, Public Information Office, Animal Control Division, Training Division and Information Management Team.

Vincent Penna Jr.

Penna received many awards and commendations for bravery, and was tenacious in his investigations. A high profile murder case was solved with his dedication, management skills and ability to work with, federal and international agencies.

He also served as president of the Westport Police Union Local 2080, and the Westport Police Benevolent Association.

When he retired, Penna said his legacy at the department would be his work to get Westport included in Norwalk’s juvenile review board, and his role in helping the department become one of 40 around the state to achieve Tier 1 accreditation.

“Vinny” was the son of Vincent Penna Sr., longtime owner of Penna Construction. The family has deep roots in Saugatuck.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas calls Penna’s death “a devastating loss. In the most stressful situations, he kept people together with his presence and his humor.”

Koskinas recalls many instances when Penna saw someone suffering. “He wrote a check, or got them food or clothes. He always did the right thing, even — especially — when no one was looking.”

Early in his career, as a brand new officer, there was a double drowning in a local pool. “The steps Vinny took, the condolences he offered — I saw a side of humanity that sticks with me today,” the chief says. “He was devastated, but he did whatever he could to help out.”

Koskinas notes Penna’s special ties to Westport.

“Public service is always special. But to serve the community you were brought up in is even more special. When the time came for him to leave his ‘family’ at the Police Department, and take over his family business with his father, it was just another way of giving back to the village he and his family had been raised in.”

Koskinas notes that Penna was also “an incredible father. As much as he gave to his community, his first priority was his wife Denise and his sons, Vincent and Nicholas. He did not miss a game or an event, or even a doctor’s appointment. They were his life.”

Deputy Police Chief Sam Arciola grew up with Penna. “We lived together, worked together and fished together,” he says. “He was a great family man — father, husband son. That was most important to him.”

Penna purchased a boat this summer, Arciola says, and spent many hours on the water with his wife and boys.

“But he was a great police officer too. And he was just such a good person. He would do anything for you.”

RTM member Andrew Colabella adds, “Vinny and his family were 2 pillars of this town. Through law enforcement and construction, they served the public and the community with the highest respect and integrity.

“No job was too big or hard to complete. No crime went unanswered or unsolved.

“He was the ultimate Westport role model. He was born and raised here. He worked for the town, and in town. He loved the town, with the goal to continue raising his family here just like the Pennas have done for generations. This is such a loss to everyone.”

26 responses to “Remembering Vinny Penna

  1. A major loss no words can ease the the loss a sad day for Westport

  2. One of the greatest men of westport, horrendous tragedy, so sad, heart goes out to his family and the Westport Police.

  3. Kristan Hamlin

    My deepest condolences to the Penna family. I know his dad, Vinny, who has done some work for us in past years and is a really good guy.

    I believe this family does a lot of work with Al’s Angels, as well. In his memory, I will give to that charity this Christmas. May his memory be a blessing.
    ~Kristan Hamlin

  4. Mary Papageorge

    This is such sad news, our family sends Vincent’s family our prayers and condolences!

  5. Michael Calise

    This is terrible news. My condolences to the Penna family. A loss for Westport.

  6. What a loss. His family should be proud, and all of us grateful, for the huge contribution this man made to our Town.

  7. Vinny will deeply be missed by his community & family.
    My condolences to the Penna family and all his friends and members of the Westport PD.

  8. Gerald F. Romano, Jr.

    Vinny, I salute you, I thank you for your service, I say a prayer for you and your family.
    Its the men in BLUE and the Military who protect or Town and Country. You will always be remembered.
    Gerald F. Romano, Jr.

  9. Margie Penna, young Vinny’s grandmother, was my mother’s best friend. They either spoke by phone or saw each other almost every day for decades, and so I can still remember just how proud Margie was when young Vinny was born. She must have known how much reason she’d have to be – – and no doubt still does.

  10. Ann Marie Breisler

    I thank everyone for the wonderful friendships Vincent formed and the career accomplishments my son, Vincent, has experienced during his years growing up in Westport Ct and serving his community. Vincent’s education at local Westport schools, Fairfield Prep and Quinnipiac College served him especially well throughout his career. Vincent was the best son any mother could hope to have. I raised Vincent as a single parent since he was 12 months old and we, together, supported and helped each other through our years together. I love and cherish his memory. A.m.Breisler

  11. Vinny Penna was an extraordinary police officer and represented what “community” in Westport is really all about. I was fortunate to see his leadership demonstrated daily as a Deputy Police Chief, but also as a resident who understood the meaning of giving back to his hometown. On behalf of the Town of Westport, I want to express my sincere condolences to Denise, Vincent and Nicholas and to his parents. This is a sad day for our town.

  12. Ann Marie you should write a book for all other single parents, you could not have done a better job, deepest condolences and prayers for you and your family

  13. Cristina Negrin

    In this time of Covid is it wrong to ask how he died? Sorry for your loss

  14. Devasting loss what a beautiful tribute my prayers are with his family I can’t imagine their heartbreak. May God Bless you and give you strength.

  15. Collette Faucher Sandler

    So very sad to hear this. Even as schoolchildren at Saugatuck Elementary School I have fond memories of a kind and gentle soul. My deepest condolences to his family during these already challenging times.

  16. MaryLee Denke Rotella

    Sending prayers to family 🙏🏻

  17. Thoughts and prayers go out to the Penna family, A devastating loss as a life taken too soon!

  18. To Penna family and men and women who proudly protect and serve us on the Westport Police Department-my deepest sympathies to all of you on the loss of Deputly Chief Vincent Penna.
    Dan, excellent post and tribute. Vinny was a solid as they come, not only as a member of our PD, but as a human being. A devastating loss to our community

  19. Tammy Telesco Stefanidis

    Vinny was a great man, and great officer. You will be missed Vinny. My thoughts and prayers are with your family. Especially your two young boys.

  20. Michael Don Sullivan

    …… shocked and saddened to read about Vinnie’s sudden and much to soon passing! I’m speechless today. God bless his family. To Chief Foti and your predecessor Dale and entire WPD and the community. My condolences and prayers for you all. Michael Don Sullivan

  21. Vinny was a great man who cared about everyone and a great family man the town of Westport lost a true Westport person I. I. No I will miss him he gave me great advice I want say sorry to his wife and kids and mom and dad

  22. Mary Andrachik

    I was fortunate to call Vinny and friend and colleague. He will always be remembered for his humility, compassion, humor, his sense of service. His selfless dedication to his family, the Westport Police Department, Scouts BSA Troop 36, the Westport Community & his A.J. Penna & Son Construction family is a testament of his life – Vinny’s legacy will live on in all the many people whose lives he touched.

    Due to Covid restrictions Vinny’s funeral service is private, but can be viewed via live stream starting 10 minutes before the service at 9:50am on Tuesday, December 22, 2020 at (note this is the Westport Assumption Church website).

    The graveside service is open to the public and information can be found on Harding funeral home website.

    Donations in Vinny’s memory can be made to Scouts BSA Troop 36 via PayPal at
    or by mailing a check made out to “Troop 36”
    Attn: Troop 36, Saugatuck Congregational Church,
    245 Post Road East, Westport CT

  23. May you rest in peace now Vinnie You were taken so young and onlyGod knows the reason why. You were an asset to the town of Westport. Rest in peace vinnie some day we will all meet again on the other side.

  24. Vinny was a gift, a very special gift. His legacy will remain part of the inner fabric of Westport well beyond our own lives. A life lived for others.

    Until we meet again, my friend,

    John D

  25. Jan Dannenberg

    Vinnie was the best of the best.
    our deepest condolences.
    The Dannenberg’a