Category Archives: Police

Jeff Pegues: “Black And Blue” In America Today

As justice/homeland security correspondent for CBS News, Jeff Pegues has special insight into the police/community relations crisis that’s dominated American headlines for the past couple of years.

As an African American man, he’s got a different — but very important — perspective too.

Which is why the 1988 Staples High School graduate’s new book — Black and Blue: Inside the Divide Between the Police and Black America — is such a crucial addition to this national debate.

Earlier this week — in the midst of tracking down sources for the still-developing Russian-presidential-campaign-hacking story — Pegues talked about his project. We had not spoken for 3 decades — I was his youth soccer coach, before he became a Staples football star, earned a scholarship to Miami University in Ohio and rose through the broadcast ranks to WABC-TV news, then 3 years ago CBS national news — but he was eager to chat.

Jerff Pegues, reporting for CBS News.

Jerff Pegues, reporting for CBS News.

His parents grew up in the Deep South — Montgomery and Birmingham — during the heart of the civil rights movement. He’s related on his mother’s side to Rosa Parks.

During his 25 years in the news business, Pegues worked on many law enforcement stories. He’s developed strong relationships with police officers, commanders and federal investigators.

As he covered a string of police shootings – from Ferguson through Tulsa, Charlotte and more — he realized he was in a unique position.

“It’s important to dispel myths, and get all sides of the story in one place,” Pegues says.

“With Twitter, Facebook and other social media, people get information from sources they agree with. They reinforce their opinion. They don’t question it.”

He admits, “I’m not Shakespeare. But I know how to interview people, and get honest answers. That way everyone can see the issues, study them and start to solve problems.”

jeff-pegues-bookSpeaking with hundreds of subjects — officers, police chiefs and union leaders, community activists, even FBI director (and fellow former Westporter) James Comey — Pegues offers an unbiased view from both sides of the cop-community divide.

Police speak about the pressure to enforce laws, involve themselves in social issues and work in neighborhoods that have been neglected for years. Black citizens talk about confrontations that have happened for decades; finally, they say, there is proof that they are being singled out, harassed, even killed.

A police chief remarks that officers feel there are targets on their backs. “I thought, ‘a lot of African Americans feel the same way,'” Pegues says. “But they can’t take that ‘uniform’ off.

“I want the truth out there,” he adds. “Folks in the black community need to understand stop-and-frisk. Cops need to talk about the disrespect they feel in some communities, as they try to help. There are good people on both sides.”

However, he adds, despite similar concerns about issues, “in this politically charged atmosphere, there’s not a lot of listening.”

Pegues plays it right down the middle. “I have friends and family on both sides,” he says.

Jeff Pegues

Jeff Pegues

Writing about a subject with new headlines nearly every week — though  the book will not be published until spring — is not easy. For example, Pegues says, earlier this week the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police apologized for historic mistreatment of minorities by police. That came too late to include in Black and Blue.

But stories like those will bring readers to his book. Once there, Pegues’ clear, coherent and constructive approach to cop/community relations will draw them in.

And — whether they are police officers, black activists or any other American — Jeff Pegues’ book will get us all thinking.

Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!


UPDATE: Police Detain Burglary Suspect

A break may have come in the spate of break-ins in Westport homes.

Minutes ago, the Westport Police announced that a suspect has been identified in connection with recent burglaries. That person is in custody for crimes committed in nearby towns, and has confessed to Westport burglaries.

Arrest warrants are pending, and an investigation is ongoing. Westport detectives are working with area departments that have experienced similar incidents.

Meanwhile, police advise residents that Greens Farms and the Easton Road sections of town have experienced burglaries, as well as reports of suspicious people knocking on doors, telling fabricated stories about an internet posting or broken-down vehicle. This is believed to be a tactic for suspects to identify unoccupied residences.

Police ask Westporters to call 203-341-6080 with reports of suspicious activity, or information about recent incidents.

Westport Police


Attempted Break-Ins Jolt Town

An alert — and concerned — “06880” reader writes:

Your “feel-good” story about Minute Men Cleaner’s return of money contrasted with the not-so-feel-good story of an attempted break in at my residence last Friday — which apparently is not an isolated incident. I share with you the story, hoping that readers will be careful to observe any suspicious activity and contact the police with any information.

Last Friday early afternoon, I left my house for 2 hours, then returned to Greens Farms.  All seemed normal.

I let my dog out, and noticed wood on the ground. Then I saw fresh wood on the door molding. My first inclination was that an animal did this.

I quickly realized though that someone (or a group of people) had tried breaking into our house while I was gone. I called the police. When they came, they said a number of other houses were hit around the same time.

They took photos, info, etc., and mentioned we were lucky to have a deadbolt on our door.  They said the crow bar that was apparently used was no match for the deadbolt.

A deadbolt helped deter the burglars. Here's what the door frame looked like afterward.

A deadbolt helped deter the burglars. Here’s what the door frame looked like afterward.

Hopefully our dog also started to bark. We do have a house alarm. It was activated but not triggered, since the intruders failed to enter.

This whole experience is very unsettling. My family has lived in 3 houses in Westport for 6 years. I have been married for almost 20 years, and have never had anyone attempt to break in to any of our homes.

We know we are fortunate not to deal with a break-in during the middle of the night, or even during the day. However, this left us feeling very violated and frustrated.

Westport PoliceNeedless to say, my children were surprised to see police when they got home from elementary school. I explained what happened. My son was more excited than scared, and couldn’t wait to bring this to “share” come Monday.

My 7 year old reacted very differently. She said, “I feel sick and scared.” I did everything to reassure her she is safe, and that the police will work on capturing the criminals.

When I told friends in the area what had happened, a woman told this story:

One morning last week, 2 youths rang my doorbell. I thought they were selling magazines. My dog was going crazy, so I didn’t open it wide or talk long.

They said they were looking for an address. I tried to help, but they hustled off.  For some reason it felt ‘off’ to me all weekend. It was weird that they didn’t say ‘thanks,’ and one of the guys was really smiley, like he knew he was being deceptive.

I closed the door and thought, which is unlike me, that these guys were casing the house, that I was grateful to have been home, and also to have my dog going crazy at them.

As I finished typing this, I just found out that a number of police cars were out in my neighborhood today, near the Post Road. Was it another attempted break-in?

Sad that we have to say and do this — but please be alert and lock your doors. Set your alarms if you have them.  Please call the police if you see anything.  Hopefully whoever is doing this will be caught.

P.S. A shout-out to local company Jake the Locksmith. They came to our house  the same day to see if the integrity of the door was compromised. Great service!

Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

Railroad Parking: Less Is More

The other day, an alert “06880” reader asked if the recent renovation of the train station’s westbound parking lot (#1) resulted in the loss of any spaces. (He was pretty sure it did.)

I did not know the answer. But I knew who would.

Foti Koskinas — who as Westport’s police chief is also responsible for railroad parking — responded (as usual) almost immediately.

He said: Yes. The original plan would have meant 6 fewer spaces. When another exit was added, an additional 2 were lost.

During the project however, realignment of spaces and crosswalks added 2 back. So the 1st number stands: There are now 6 fewer spaces than before.

The reason for the loss, Foti noted, is that the old lot was non-conforming to current regulations. Spaces were too narrow, resulting in many dented doors.

Pre-renovation: an aerial view of train station parking lot 1 (center).

Pre-renovation: an aerial view of train station parking lot 1 (center).

But Foti added lots (ho ho) more information. And it’s all good.

Throughout the summer, the Police Department examined every parking area. New spaces will appear, sometime before the holidays:

  • 12-14 additional parking spots in Lot #2 (the smaller westbound lot, just up the hill from Lot #1 and Luciano Park)
  • 8 new spots on Park Street (coming down the slight hill from Exit 17, opposite the old Blu Parrot/Jasmine/Arrow restaurant)
  • 15-17 more spots on one side of Franklin Street, under I-95
  • 54-60 additional spots in Lot #7, off Franklin Street (due to leases the town took over from the state — not easy, but they got it done!).

But wait! There’s more!

The department has contacted the next 150 commuters on the wait list. They’re in the process of getting their permits.

And more permits may come, once the projects in the bullet list above are completed.

Now, if only Metro-North could respond as quickly and efficiently as the Westport Police…

Click on or hover over to enlarge this railroad station parking map.

Click on or hover over to enlarge this railroad station parking map.

Kids, Cops Join Forces

Across America, police departments and the communities they serve are examining their relationships.

For several years, Westport cops and teenagers have worked together, playing dodgeball and meeting informally.

Now we’re kicking it up a notch.

The Westport Police and Department of Human Services are teaming up in a Police-Youth Collaborative. Students will meet with officers throughout the year, planning fun events and doing community service projects in town.

The idea is to get 15-20 teens, and 5-7 officers who don’t regularly interact with youth, to build stronger, healthier relationships, develop mutual respect, and create a better community.

Then deputy, now chief Foti Koskinas (left) played on this winning Dodge-a-Cop dodgeball team last fall.

Then deputy, now chief Foti Koskinas (left) played on this winning Dodge-a-Cop dodgeball team last fall.

Two activities are already scheduled for this month: a high ropes course (Sunday, October 9 at the Discovery Museum in Bridgeport) and a distracted driving event at Staples (Saturday, October 22),

Sergeant Sereniti Dobson and Human Services’ youth services program director Kevin Godburn secured a state Office of Policy and Management grant of nearly $10,000. It pays for some police overtime and team-building exercises.

“Kids can be catalysts. They can bring change to their peers,” Godburn explains. “Kids need to understand cops more, and police officers can understand where Westport kids are coming from.”

Everyone is excited, Godburn adds. “There’s always a positive response when kids and cops work, play and interact together. Both sides really do want to get to know the other.”

Commuter Spots Available — But Watch Those Signs!

An alert, ticketed — and ticked-off — “06880” reader writes:

I’ve been a railroad parking permit holder for 20 years. Today I got a ticket because I couldn’t find a spot in a permit lot.

The town has changed the lot by Exit 17 from being permit-only to daily parking only.

I don’t get it. I pay for my permit, yet when I catch a later train (9 a.m. today), I get stuck with a daily fee ticket?

When I went to the police station, I was told that having a permit does not mean you get a space. It strikes me that the town is forcing permit holders who come later in the morning to pay twice to park: once for the permit, then for the daily fee. Do I have this right?

Not exactly. I contacted Foti Koskinas, Westport’s police chief who also administers railroad parking.

train station parking

He says that the police monitor parking spots every day. There has never been “no parking” for permit holders. In fact, he says, Lot 3 — on the south side of the tracks — has 75 to 100 spaces open every day.

What the department has done is change some of the parking distribution. After taking surveys and watching traffic patters, they realized that the limited number of $5 daily parking spots in each lot caused daily parkers to drive from lot to lot, searching for them.

Now, 2 lots — #4 and #8, one on each side of the tracks — are dedicated solely to $5 daily parking.

By parking in one of those lots — when permit places were available elsewhere — the “06880” reader took a spot away from a daily parker. That’s why he got a ticket, Foti says.

“Just because you have a permit, that doesn’t mean you can park anywhere,” he emphasizes. “We have 6,000 to 8,000 commuters a day. There’s a real science to this.”

In other railroad parking news, new lights will be installed Friday.

Commuter parking, circa 1949.

Commuter parking, circa 1949.

UPDATE: This Morning’s Bus Incident

The Westport Police Department has added details about this morning’s bus accident at Weston Road and Cross Highway.

There was minor damage to both the bus and the car. Both drivers stopped.

Westport PoliceThe driver of the car spoke to the driver, then drove his child to Bedford Middle School.

He did not leave any information or paperwork at the scene. However, he followed up afterward by calling police headquarters.

So no, it’s not a “hit-and-run” as originally reported. However, by not following what the police call “proper procedures,” the driver caused a bit of alarm.

“We Love Our Dogs In Westport”

Westport Animal Shelter Advocates posted this on Facebook:

Last week at about 6:15 p.m., when the air was still very muggy with the temperature in the high 80’s, a group of diners (and Westport residents)  at Sherwood Diner became aware of a large SUV in the parking lot with a small dog inside — and New York plates. The windows were completely shut.

It was determined that the car had been there at least 45 minutes. A call was made to Westport Police, as Westport’s animal control officer was off duty.

Officer Wong Won and another officer (whose name we don’t know) responded quickly. The owner of the car was identified (mid-meal). She became belligerent and defensive, and stated, “this wouldn’t be an issue in Westchester.”

Officer Won responded, “Ma’am, this is Westport. We love our dogs in Westport.”

The dog owner was ticketed, and warned about leaving her dog in a hot car.

Westport Animal Shelter AdvocatesWASA would like to thank Officer Won and his fellow Westport officer for coming to this dog’s rescue, and handling the situation so beautifully. Tails are wagging all over Westport in appreciation.

Our thanks too to the Westport residents who were advocates for the little dog.

Yes, Officer Won, this is Westport. And we do love our dogs!

(Hat tip: Kendall Gardiner)

Cross At Your Own Risk

As construction on the North Compo/Main Street culvert continues, drivers are forced to use alternate routes.

A short stretch of Cross Highway has long been closed at Main Street. But that doesn’t stop impatient folks from using it.

Alert “06880” reader Susan Isenman was startled to see a car speed past her — and roar onto Main Street without stopping.

A while later she spotted a “friendly policeman” on Main, writing a ticket to a similar offender. He told Isenman he’d written 4 the previous day.

Cops hear all kinds of excuses. But — as the photo below shows — “I didn’t see the signs” won’t fly here.

(Photo/Susan Isenman)

(Photo/Susan Isenman)

Remembering George Marks

A bit of Westport died Thursday.

George Marks Sr. — the former police officer who marched, ramrod straight, in dozens of Memorial Day parades, and then rode with grace and dignity in many more — passed away in Norwalk Hospital. He was 96.

One of his greatest honors came in 2010. He and his son, George Marks Jr. — also a former police officer, who looked like he could have been his father’s brother — served as dual grand marshals of the annual parade.

At the 2010 Memorial Day ceremony (from left): First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, and grand marshals George Marks Jr. and Sr. (though it's hard to tell which is which).

At the 2010 Memorial Day ceremony (from left): First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, and grand marshals George Marks Jr. and Sr. (though it’s hard to tell which is which).

George Marks Sr. was born in Brooklyn. But he moved here with his parents at age 2, so calling him a “native Westporter” is no stretch.

He graduated from Staples High School on Riverside Avenue in 1938, then worked as a pressman for the Westporter Herald. In 1940 — as war loomed — he joined the Merchant Marine as a navigation officer.

His first ship left New York and stopped in Baltimore for refueling. While there, Marks became sick and was hospitalized.

Shortly after leaving port, the ship was hit by a German torpedo. All aboard were killed. Marks served on other ships crossing the Atlantic, loaded with troops and supplies. In 1944 he participated in the D-Day landing at Normandy.

George Marks Sr.

George Marks Sr.

Marks joined the Westport Police Department in 1948. He rose to the rank of lieutenant detective before retiring in 1974. He then joined Westport Bank and Trust as a security officer, continuing his familiar presence in town.

Marks was president of the Westport Fish & Game Club. He also was a life member of Temple Lodge No. 75 AF&AM, a member of the American Legion, an original member of Westport PAL, and a 20-year volunteer at Norwalk Hospital.

Survivors include 2 sons — George Marks Jr., who retired from the police department in 2006, and his wife Jacqueline of Seabrook, South Carolina, and William D. Marks and his wife Sandra of Missoula, Montana — his daughter Sandra M. Marks of Tucson, Arizona; 4 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.

The family will receive friends tomorrow (Sunday, August 28, 4 to 8 p.m.) in the Harding Funeral Home. Graveside services with full military honors will take place Monday, August 29 (10 a.m.) at Willowbrook Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to Alzheimers Association of Connecticut, 200 Executive Boulevard, Suite 4-B, Southington, CT 06489.