Category Archives: Police

UPDATE AND CORRECTION: Alert: Nixle Replaces Code Red

NOTE: The earlier version of this story said to “dial” 888777 from your mobile phone. You should TEXT that number to sign up. My apologies!

For the past 4 years, the Westport Police Department has used Nixle to provide traffic advisories.

Now, the WPD and Westport Fire Department have partnered with Nixle to offer a Community Notification System. Residents can sign up to receive localized emergency situation and relevant community advisories.

This system replaces the CodeRED emergency notification system in use here since 2009.

All alerts are targeted geographically, allowing residents to receive localized, relevant alerts from the Fire and Police Departments.

Nixle sends out immediate emergency notification — for instance, for flash flooding downtown. (Photo/Jacques Voris)

Nixle sends info via text, email, voice, web, and social media in an instant.

Town officials say residents and business owners should not assume your number is registered.

To sign up, dial 888777 from your mobile phone. Then text the zip code: 06880.

You can customize your alert setting by logging on to www.nixle.com, and creating a User Profile.

Do it today. You don’t know when the next emergency will strike.

(Hopefully not tomorrow. The last 2 Tuesdays have been brutal. Perhaps the 3rd time will be charm.)

Distracted Driving Event Set For Saturday

It’s a recent, and potentially fatal, phenomenon: a car crashes into a tree or telephone pole. It’s the middle of the day — often in fine weather — and there are no other vehicles around.

The cause is almost always distracted driving. And the driver can just as easily be an adult as a teenager.

Meanwhile, for decades, many other accidents — at all times of day — have been caused by impaired drivers. Those under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be any age too.

Staples High School’s Teen Awareness Group wants to do something about it.

This Saturday (October 13, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Staples football field), the club hosts a Distracted Driving event. It’s free, and open to all high school students.

Plus their parents, and any other interested people.

Drivers can be distracted by texting, as well as by alcohol or drugs.

The State Police will be on hand with a simulator. Attendees can experience first-hand the power of an impact by a moving vehicle — this time, fortunately, in a safe, controlled environment.

Westport police officers will create an obstacle course and other simulations. Using special goggles, participants can experience the effects of substances on depth perception, coordination, decreased reaction time and impaired decision-making.

You can also take a field sobriety test.

TAG has organized this Distracted Driving Day with support from the Westport Youth Commission and Westport Police-Youth Club.

It’s an important event. Drive safely — there, back and always.

(NOTE: Attendees should park by the Staples fieldhouse and pool. Staples boys soccer’s 60th anniversary celebration will fill the parking lot by the soccer field and baseball diamond.)

Coffee With A Cop: A Great Stop!

There was a heavy police presence this morning at Aux Delices.

It’s all good.

Westport Police celebrated Coffee With a Cop day, at the popular downtown spot. Alert — and caffeinated — “06880” reader Jo Shields sends this photo of Officer Scott Thompson (sporting the WPD’s special pink breast cancer awareness patch), Office Mark Grasso and Westporter Ligia Brickus.

Jo reports:

Officer Thompson commented how nice it was to meet everyone who stopped by. I thought it was great to have a stop for coffee — not a traffic stop! We are so lucky to have such caring and competent members of our police force.

Conversations included officer commutes (Fairfield is lots easier than Milford!); raising 3-year old boys; little old ladies and kids being more comfortable approaching cops when they’ve got their motorcycles; finding time to sew the patches; the NY, PA, DC 9/11 Ride, and who gets to drive that pink Maserati this month!

In addition to the pink shoulder patches, Aux Delices provided pink-topped coffee cups, also for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

It was a fun event, with lots of smiles all around.

That’s the ticket!

Coffee With A Cop

It’s an enduring stereotype: Cops eat donuts.

Some members of the Westport Police Department very well may. Others may not.

But our police are not caricatures. They’re great, hard-working, community-minded men and women, each with an individual story. Sometimes that gets lost in stereotypes.

Westporters can get to know a few of those individuals next Wednesday (October 3, 7:30 to 9:30 a.m., Aux Delices, 44 Church Lane). The WPD is participating in “Coffee With a Cop” — a national initiative to strengthen bonds between officers and local residents.

Westport Police do plenty of other community outreach: K9 and “Officer Friendly” outreach in schools and daycare centers; youth activities like Dodge-a-Cop and bowling; teen and adult Citizens’ Police Academies, and an ice cream social on Jesup Green.

Aux Delices is a perfect place for Wednesday’s casual get-together. They serve great coffee, and an extensive breakfast menu.

No donuts, though.

Westport Police: Pretty In Pink

The Westport Police Department is a longtime supporter of breast cancer research. Every October, they find an innovative way to raise awareness of the deadly disease.

A couple of years ago, for example, they tooled around town in a pink Maserati.

This year they’ve turned their patch from familiar blue to powerful pink.

Throughout October, officers will wear the patch.

All month long too, they’re selling the pink patches to the public as a fundraiser. The cost is $10 each, at police headquarters (50 Jesup Road). All proceeds will be donated to Pink Aid of Westport.

Unsung Heroes #67

It’s hard to come up with new ideas for a 6-year-old’s birthday party. But Dylan Rosen has had great interactions with Westport police officers. So on a whim, his father Frank asked the Westport Police Department if his son and friends could get a tour of the station.

The WPD said, “sure!”

But as 17 boys and their parents walked in to police headquarters, Rosen had doubts. “Who drew the short straw?” he wondered.

Officers Daniel Paz and John Margnelli did. But for them and their guests, it was anything but a chore.

“They could not have been any warmer or more genuine,” Rosen reports. “They completely overextended themselves.”

Officer Daniel Paz lets Rosen “ride” a police motorcycle.

First, Paz — who served 2 deployments in Iraq — told the kids, “You can’t come in this police station without a badge.” Then he handed he one a sticker badge.

He showed the group everything from dispatch and the detective bureau to the garage with police bikes, tactical defensive gear and holding cells (the boys and girls remarked on the lack of privacy and televisions, and noted there would not be much to do in there).

Paz and Margnelli — who was a homicide detective, SWAT operator and community police officer in Florida before coming to Connecticut — ended the tour by showing a police motorcycle and car.

There was no talk or evidence of weapons anywhere with the kids.

Away from the children though, parents saw the gear officers use in a SWAT situation, and the heavily armored vests and helmets needed to stop an AR-15 round.

What was most impressive, Rosen says, was “the kindness of our officers, and the lengths they went to to give each child (and adult) an opportunity to ask questions. They never ran out of patience.”

At the end of the tour, Paz and Margnelli learned the group was headed next to Westport Pizzeria. So they gave the youngsters an escort.

“The kids were skipping the whole way there!” Rosen says.

The start of a police escort to Westport Pizzeria.

“It’s important that our children know these are real super-heroes,” he adds. “These are the brave people we call on every day. They leave their homes and families, to come to work and protect ours.”

Thanks, Daniel Paz and John Margnelli, for going above and beyond a few days ago for an admiring group of 6-year-olds — and for all of us, 24/7/365.

Sunset Drama On Sunrise

Sunrise Road was not made for 18-wheelers.

The driver of a truck filled with 43,000 pounds of refrigerated meat — bound from Minnesota to West Haven — learned that out the hard way last night at 7.

He tried to make a right turn onto Saugatuck Avenue — no easy feat even for Mini Coopers. Soon, he was hung up on a stone wall.

Alert “06880” reader Gerald F. Romano Jr. was on the scene. For the next 2 1/2 hours, he says, Westport police and firefighters did a great job. A crew from Quality Towing unloaded 10,000 pounds of meat off the truck.

That lightened the load, so the Quality guys could pull the rear wheels off the wall. No one one was injured. The driver — who said this was his first incident in 40 years — drove off.

(All photos Gerald F. Romano Jr.)

“It all ended well,” Romano says.

But just imagine if the driver had headed for the William F. Cribari Bridge.

Unsung Hero #55

Today is July 4.

Westport jumps the gun a bit on our fireworks celebration. We held ours Monday night. It’s the town’s biggest and best party of the year.

The cost is just $35 — and that’s only if you want to park at Compo. (Plus, you can pack as many people as you want into your vehicle.)

Otherwise you can park at Longshore, the office complex on Greens Farms Road or a friend’s house, and walk to the beach.

Still, people complain.

The $35 — a price that has remained the same for years — helps fund Westport PAL. They’ve sponsored the event for years. Recently, Melissa & Doug have helped out, ensuring that more of the money goes back to PAL programs.

Under the direction of Westport Police officer Ned Batlin — and a small group of volunteers — PAL does plenty. For example, they provide:

  • Youth sports teams and clinics. Each year, over 2,000 youngsters participate in 20 or so programs, including football, wrestling, cheerleading and much more.
  • The ice rink at Longshore (one of Westport’s favorite winter activities, for people of all ages and abilities).

The PAL Longshore Ice Rink.

  • Equipment and other needs for a variety of Staples High School teams.
  • College scholarships (more than 300 graduates so far, and counting).
  • Support for Toys for Tots, DARE and other programs.

That’s just the tangible stuff. By partnering with so many efforts, Westport PAL shows kids that the police really are their pals.

Westport PAL is our July 4th Unsung Heroes.

And every other day too.

Officer Ned Batlin, Police Chief Foti Koskinas and Deputy Chief Sam Arciola all help Westport PAL go.

Police Pension Draws National Attention

A pension dispute involving Westport’s Police Department has drawn national attention.

The Economic Policy Institute — a left-leaning think tank — is focusing on a dispute between the police union (AFSCME Local 2080) and the town.

Negotiations have gone to binding arbitration. A decision may come this fall.

“Why would Westport mess with a system that works?” asks economist Monique Morrissey on the EPI’s Working Economics Blog.

“The police department is tiny and the town can easily afford the benefits. In the 2015-2016 fiscal year, spending on police pensions amounted to just 1.2 percent of the town’s revenues, so even drastic benefit cuts wouldn’t noticeably affect anyone’s tax bill.

“Westport’s property tax rate is already among the lowest in the state, though taxes are high in dollar terms as would be expected for a wealthy town in a high cost of living area.”

Morrissey notes that Westport police officers do not receive Social Security, nor is overtime factored into their final pensions. She frames efforts to reduce Westport police pensions as part of “an ideological campaign” to get rid of pensions in favor of riskier 401(k)-style savings plans.

She says that kind of campaign could backfire as municipalities start to restore benefits in an effort to prevent losing experienced officers.

“The 64 members of the Westport police department, who signed on for what they thought was a career of public service that would be rewarded with a secure retirement, may still pay a price, unless the citizens of Westport realize that that the police force they have come to rely on may be torn apart by shortsighted pension ‘reforms,’” Morrissey writes.

Click here to read Morrissey’s full story.

Unsung Hero #50

Alert “06880” reader Cary Peterson writes:

It was late afternoon last Friday. As I do almost every day, I walked our little dog to Grace Salmon Park.

Chloe

The tide was as low as it can get. It looked like you could walk to Riverside Avenue. I let Chloe off her leash on the path around the river. She doesn’t like the water, and usually stays right with me.

She nosed around the center where it is fenced off, and flushed out a duck. It flew toward the river, with our dog right on her tail.

She plunged into the mud and followed the duck out to open water, a long way from shore. I screamed at her to come, but she seemed stuck.

At that moment a police car pulled in the park. I ran over. Officer John Lauria tried to calm me down, as he assessed the situation.

Neither of us could see any sign of Chloe. I was sure she was drowned in mud.

Officer Lauria called animal control. We walked around looking for any sign of her.

I was hysterical, as the officer explained he couldn’t walk out in the quicksand. I certainly didn’t want him risking his life either. He commiserated with me on how difficult it is to lose a dog.

Officer John Lauria, on land.

After 10 futile minutes he spotted Chloe, way at the edge of the muck. He jumped in and walked across the Saugatuck River to rescue her.

The relief I felt when he safely trudged ashore carrying her is indescribable.

By that time animal control officer Joseph Saponare had arrived. He was barefoot, and ready to help. He was also well supplied with towels, which made only a small dent in wiping off the black muck.

I am struck by how easy it is to misjudge even a very obedient dog. We have been taking her to this park without incident since she finished her obedience training 6 years ago. Dogs have very strong instincts. We have to keep Chloe always on a leash.

As for officer John Lauria: He took a big risk for a little dog. To me he will always walk on water!