Category Archives: Police

Unsung Heroes #32

If they wave us through, we love ’em.

If they put up a gloved hand to stop us, we hate ’em. Especially if they stop us just as we get there.

Or if we’re in even more of a rush than usual.

A typical North Avenue scene.

But Westport’s traffic cops deserve our thanks. They’re this week’s Unsung Heroes.

In the words of alert — and grateful — “06880” reader Lauren Barnett, who nominated them:

“They assist with, and add calm and order to, the madness and mayhem of parents and teenage drivers outside Staples High and Bedford Middle School at dawn, and in the frigid cold, each day.”

Lauren gives a shout-out too to “those officers who stand out in the cold night by the bridge and Rizzuto’s to direct anxious commuters safely home from the evening trains in Saugatuck.

“I wish I knew their names. We all should.”

Interestingly, the William F. Cribari Bridge (noted above) is named for a much loved — and very theatrical — traffic cop. He owned that well-traveled corner for years. Each day, he brought order, grace — even humor — to it.

Bill Cribari, at work (and play). (Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

That’s the thing: We may love them, tolerate them, or curse them.

But when they’re not there, we sure miss them.

(Want to nominate an Unsung Hero? Email dwoog@optonline.net)

 

Kids Appreciate Cops

Tuesday was Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.

If you missed it — like I did — don’t worry. This story will make up for it.

Dr. Joan and Dennis Poster are long-time police supporters, here and nationally. When the Westport couple mentioned the day to their grandsons Max, Jack and Sam Eigen, the boys decided to do something to show their own support.

Max — a junior at Staples High School — and Bedford Middle School 7th grader Sam asked their friends to write down what they appreciate most about our police. The boys put the notes in a “gratitude jar.” Yesterday morning at Town Hall, they presented it to department officials.

Max and Sam Eigen yesterday, with (from left) Deputy Chief Sam Arciola, Police Chief Foti Koskinas and Officer Nat Batlin, at Westport Town Hall.

Jack asked his Fairfield Country Day School classmates to do the same. He put those notes in another jar, and handed it to Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara and the department.

Police and kids both get plenty of bad press.

Today it’s all good.

Take A Knee? TEAM Westport Asks Teens Their Take

Last year, TEAM Westport‘s annual teen diversity essay contest tackled a hot topic: white privilege. Submissions were insightful and strong. Reaction was strong too, though not nearly as intelligent. A national controversy ensued.

TEAM Westport was not cowed. The town’s multicultural committee has just announced this year’s 5th annual contest. The topic is once again in the news.

And the idea once again is to make local teenagers — and everyone else reading their essays — think.

The prompt says:

Recently, several professional athletes have “taken a knee” during the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” to bring attention to — and to protest — ongoing bias and discriminatory practices in American society in general, and by law enforcement officers in particular.

In reaction, some people have called these athletes “unpatriotic.”  In 1,000 words or fewer, describe your understanding of what it means to be a patriot, what kinds of behavior you think would be unpatriotic, and what forms of protest against discriminatory laws, customs, or patterns of behavior you would consider legitimate.

This is not your typical essay contest.

But — as the nation continues to be grapple with issues relating to race, ethnicity, religion and identity, along with questions about what America is and what it stands for — it is exactly the kind of essay contest we need.

The contest — co-sponsored with the Westport Library — is open to students in grades 9 through 12 who attend Staples High School or another school in Westport, or who live in Westport and attend school elsewhere.

Applications are available here. The deadline is February 27. Winners will be announced at a ceremony at the library on April 2. Based on the volume and caliber of entries received, judges may award up to 3 prizes. First prize is $1,000; 2nd prize is $750, 3rd is $500.

(Individuals or organizations who would like to help sponsor the contest can click here or email info@teamwestport.org. Contributions are deductible to the extent permitted by law.)

Want To Give This Holiday Season? Here’s How!

Several alert — and generous — “06880” readers have asked how they can help others this holiday season.

Not every Westporter is well off. Last year, the Department of Human Services’ Holiday Giving Program helped over 400 residents battered by layoffs, foreclosures and other misfortunes.

Some of the most appreciated gifts are grocery and gas gift cards of any amount, as well as gift cards to local stores.

Cash donations help Human Services staffers buy last-minute gift cards for clients. Gift cards and checks (payable to “DHS Family Programs,” with “Holiday” on the memo line) can be mailed to or dropped off at Room 200, Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880.

Donors can also shop for a family’s actual gift requests. For specific requests or to learn more, contact Patty Haberstroh: hsyouth@westportct.gov; 203-341-1069.

NOTE: Clubs, schools, religious groups, book clubs and businesses can help too!


Meanwhile, Westport police officers are accepting new, unopened and unwrapped toys — plus cash donations — during their annual Holiday Toy Drive.

They take place on the weekends of December 9-10 and 16-17 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m., ASF Sports parking lot, 1560 Post Road East).

Each year, police Local Union 2080 and the Police Benevolent Association has collected thousands of toys for children who otherwise would have none.

Can’t do weekends? Collection boxes are set up now through December 17 at the police station (50 Jesup Road), Town Hall (110 Myrtle Avenue), ASF Sports (1560 Post Road East) and Renato’s Jewelers (1765 Post Road East).

Questions? Contact Sgt. Jill Ruggiero: jruggiero@westportct.gov; 203-341-6000.


And if you swing by Suited.co (44 Railroad Place) Tuesday through Saturday (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) — with a gently used overcoat, jacket or suit — owner Ryan Meserole will donate it to Save-a-Suit. The non-profit provides business attire to military veterans getting back into the workforce.

It’s a great way to give. And Ryan gives back too — with a $150 credit on any Suited.co order.


I’m sure there are many more ways to help. If you know of an organization, business or club that’s doing good work this holiday season, click “Comments” below. Spread the word — and good cheer!

Police Hiring Controversy Ends; Conklin Rescinds New Haven Resignation

Daniel Conklin — the New Haven detective whose hiring by Westport ignited a storm of controversy, after revelations of 3 internal affairs investigations into his conduct — will not join the Police Department here after all.

The New Haven Independent reported today that Conklin has formally rescinded his letter of resignation there.

Assistant police chief Archie Generoso said, “He’s a fine detective. I met with him today and told him I’m happy to have him back.”

Click here for the entire Independent story.

Police Back New Hire; Respond To News Reports, Social Media Storm

There are 2 sides to every story.

And the side behind the initial furor — “Rogue Cop Hired in Westport” — is as interesting as the first.

Social media was atwitter over the weekend, after the New Haven Independent published a story about Daniel Conklin, a former New Haven detective set to join the Westport Police Department.

Conklin allegedly destroyed evidence on a bogus stop, harassed and arrested a man on trumped-up charges, and shoved and threatened to tow the car of a fisherman parked on a bridge.

Daniel Conklin (Photo/Christopher Peak, courtesy of New Haven Independent)

Westport delayed Conklin’s swearing-in, set for today. But the department stands strongly by the new hire.

A few moments ago, officials said:

We want to assure the public that Mr. Conklin has been properly and thoroughly vetted through an extensive background investigation process. We are confident in our decision to hire him as a Westport police officer.

The Westport Police Department is a very desirable law enforcement agency in which to work, and is able to be extremely selective with its new hires. Every officer hired, lateral or entry level, is vetted through an extremely rigorous background investigation process. This involves a physical examination, drug screen, review of the applicant’s finances, neighborhood canvass, and interviews with employers. The applicant encounters 3 levels of oral interviews with department investigators and command staff. This process also includes a polygraph examination and a psychological evaluation.

We have reviewed Detective Conklin’s personnel and training files. We have examined each internal affairs complaint individually. The federal lawsuit against Detective Conklin was unanimously dismissed by the jury. Two complaints were found to be attributed to training deficiencies on behalf of the New Haven Police Department and another resulted in a 1-day suspension. For the last 3 years of his 5 year career in New Haven, he has excelled in his profession and has not been the subject of any internal affairs or discipline investigations.

We have spoken to his family, co-workers, supervisors and a sergeant in the internal affairs department, all of whom concurred that Daniel has matured into well-rounded, competent police officer. Chief Koskinas has personally spoken to Chief Campbell of the New Haven Police Department regarding Detective Conklin and received a very favorable recommendation. Further, Chief Campbell stated, “If there was ever a sensitive investigation to be handled involving my family, or anyone, I would want him [Conklin] to investigate it.”

Because of his strong work ethic, Detective Conklin was appointed by the New Haven Chief of Police to the gang unit. In 2016, he was promoted to the rank of detective and assigned to the major crimes division of the New Haven Police Department. Both are prestigious assignments which come with incredible responsibility. Detective Conklin was highly recommended by his supervisors and the State’s Attorney’s Office due to his investigative skills and his sensitivity to victims and their families.

Over the last 3 years, 16 of 18 new police department hires have been lateral applicants joining us from other Connecticut law enforcement agencies. We have had great success from our lateral hiring process. We have hired lieutenants from the Norwalk and Orange Police Departments, sergeants from Woodbridge and Waterbury, detectives from Waterbury, West Haven, Trumbull and Orange, and officers from Monroe, Bridgeport, Trumbull, Ridgefield, Naugatuck and Torrington. Each officer brings with him or her a great deal of knowledge and experience. Detective Conklin is no different.

Once hired, every new officer faces a mandatory probationary period with the Westport Police Department. Chief Koskinas stated, “I have an obligation to make decisions that are in the best interest of our officers, the citizens and the Town of Westport. I would never recommend hiring someone that would put any of these groups at risk. We are confident that Daniel Conklin will be an asset to the police department and the Town of Westport.”

Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe added, “During the last 24 hours, I have received a significant number of phone calls and e-mails regarding the hiring of Daniel Conklin, and I appreciate the concerns that residents have raised.  After in-depth review and discussion with Police Chief Foti Koskinas, I am confident that we have fully vetted Detective Conklin’s background and that we understand the circumstances surrounding those events that took place early in his career. He will continue to be subject to review through the department’s mandatory, lengthy, and rigorous, probationary period. This time period will give his supervisors additional opportunities to further train and evaluate his performance as an officer in Westport’s outstanding Police Department.”

Pics Of The Day #218

Don’t mess with these girls.

Police and teenagers threw balls at each other’s heads — and cheered for each other — at tonight’s annual Dodge-a-Cop tournament in the Staples High School fieldhouse.

Sponsored by the Westport Youth Commission, Staples’ Teen Awareness Group, the Westport Police Youth Collaborative and PAL, it’s a chance for a couple of hundred kids and a couple of dozen cops to play dodgeball, eat pizza, win trophies, raise money, and hang out.

Teams came in costume. Police took off their holsters and cuffs. It was a great night for all.

Whether it’s Staples Wrecker blue, or the men (and women) in blue, the message was clear: Blue lives matter.

A typical team — with actual cops on the far left and far right.

Unsung Heroes #21

This week’s Unsung Heroes are obvious:

Sunday night’s storm was bad. At one point, nearly half of Westport was without electricity.

Did Eversource get your power back instantly? Were you the first house they hustled to?

Probably not. Even in Westport, not everyone can be #1.

But they had a lot to do. Most of the state was hit hard. The men and women who assessed damage, climbed buckets, even answered phones, were overwhelmed. They worked long hours, and did their best. We owe them our thanks.

Thanks too to all of Westport’s police, firefighters and other responders. Plus of course those invaluable public works crews, tree guys, and random folks who helped out, wherever and however they could.

Slowly, we’re getting back to normal.

Until the next storm hits.

Westport Vehicle Break-Ins: Don’t Be A Victim!

An alert and concerned “06880” reader writes:

I learned this weekend from neighbors that there were 3 car break-ins on my street (Hunt Club Lane, near Long Lots) 2 weeks ago. A friend posted on Facebook that locked cars were broken into, and a locked car was stolen on her street.

The police told the Westport resident whose car was stolen that there is a trend in stealing Audis. If you’ve taken your car in for service to certain dealerships, car keys are being copied, addresses noted and cars being stolen.

Police advice to our neighbors was to lock cars, remove garage door openers from cars, and park them (especially Audis) in the garage. They also noted that these individuals may be armed, so be careful. Pretty scary.

Also scary that the 3 break-ins on my street, although reported to police, were not found via public search of crimes in our area. So the crime statistics seem to be under-reported.

I asked the Westport Police Department to respond. Lieutenant David Farrell got back immediately. He says:

In the past 6 months, Westport has had 18 stolen vehicles. Fifteen were recovered and processed by detectives. Six arrests have been made. Detectives are awaiting lab results on 8 other cases.

All stolen vehicles were unlocked, with the keys inside the vehicles. We urge residents to do their part, and lock their vehicles.

The nights when these vehicles were stolen, there were several motor vehicle break-ins as well. There have been 14 arrests in these cases. Many were linked to a juvenile who had also stolen a car in the area, and was caught. The police currently have active warrants and potential leads in other cases.

Press releases regarding arrests are sent out. The most recent was last week. Some arrests have even been made using DNA hits. Westport is one of the few police departments in the state collecting DNA from recovered stolen vehicles.

I could  not agree more that heightening awareness regarding this trend is necessary. That is why we have released several public service announcements advising people to lock their car doors and bring keys and fobs inside. We have put the same message on our Facebook page.

Westport is not alone in being targeted. Every surrounding town is experiencing the same crimes. We continue to partner with our neighboring towns to work on this problem.

The Westport Police Department is actively addressing this issue. We have the full support of the selectman’s office regarding additional resources when needed. Extra officers and detectives are frequently assigned to the midnight shift in an effort to not only catch the perpetrators, but hopefully deter the crime before it occurs.

We don’t want the bad guys to know our secrets. But rest assured, we are doing all we can.

Regarding the information about Audis and dealerships: Although this type of crime exists, we have not experienced it in Westport.

Nearly all of the vehicle break-ins here have been unlocked cars. The trend is to pull door handles until one is found unlocked. Then the criminal simply pushes the start button, hoping the fob was left in the car. Gone are the days of actually breaking into a vehicle and compromising the ignition.

We will continue to do our part, as we always do. We hope the public does their part: lock all doors, bring keys inside, keep outside lights on, and call 911 immediately if suspicious activity is observed.

Police Union Rejects Pension Contract

A controversial pension agreement — agreed to by the union executive board, and approved after hours of debate by the RTM — has been rejected by Westport police officers.

Under the agreement, current employees would pay 40% of the cost of their health insurance at the time of retirement. That amount would be frozen.

New hires (as of July 1, 2017) would be required to pay 40% of the cost of health insurance, and would not be frozen.

The retirement age would rise to 52, from 49.

A union representative called the margin of defeat “overwhelming.”

First selectman Jim Marpe said the town will meet with union leadership soon, to resume contract talks.

“I remain confident that we can reach an agreement which continues to provide excellent retirement benefits consistent with the fiscal challenges the Town faces today and in the future,” Marpe added.

“I know I reflect the opinion of all Westport residents when I express my appreciation for the dedication, bravery and professionalism that our police officers exhibit every day in protecting and serving our community.”