Category Archives: Police

Sign Here!

Fall is (nearly) here.

You know what that means: Colorful leaves! Apple cider! Tons of candidate signs, cluttering every traffic island, right-of-way and piece of property in town!

But the cops are on it. Here is a (very welcome) press release, concerning election signs AND all others, promoting galas, benefits, you name it:

With election season upon us, the Westport Police Department would like to remind its citizens of the regulations pertaining to temporary signs in town.

Unfortunately we have experienced vandalism and theft regarding temporary signs in the past. This type of behavior will not be tolerated. These crimes may lead to criminal charges such as trespassing, criminal mischief and/or larceny.

The following policy has been established by town officials, in order to provide coordination for the placement of temporary signs by Westport non-profit organizations wishing to advertise one-time-only charitable events.  Signs placed on public property advertising a private business or company will be removed. (Bold italics are mine!)

General Guidelines for ALL Temporary Signs

  • Town property includes traffic islands and road rights of way.
  • The town may not approve, nor is it responsible for, any signs erected on State of Connecticut property. It is not advisable to place signs on State of Connecticut property (including rights of way and islands along Routes 1, 136, 57, 33, and the Sherwood Island Connector, nor on the exit or entrance ramps of I-95 or the Merritt Parkway), as the state may remove them.
  • No sign may be placed on any school property without the prior permission of the superintendent’s office.
  • No sign may be placed within the interior of Compo Beach or Longshore.
  • No sign may be placed on Town Hall property.
  • No sign may be placed on trees or utility poles.
  • No sign may interfere with traffic visibility.
  • Signs on private property require property owner approval. Signs on private property shall not extend beyond the property line or into the town right-of-way and is suggested they be removed within 2 days after the publicized event or election.

Temporary Signs for Political Purposes

Political signs are considered an expression of free speech and are allowed on public property. The General Guidelines noted above apply to temporary signs for political purposes.

(Photo/Miggs Burroughs)

Temporary Signs for Advertising Charitable Events

The placement and locations of temporary signs on Town property for the purpose of advertising a charitable event requires review and approval by the Westport police chief, director of Planning and Zoning, and director of Parks & Recreation, or their designated representatives. Qualifying organizations (i.e. local non-profits) may send the attached request, including proposed locations, for the placement of temporary signs to: Selectman’s Office, Westport Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880 or selectman@westportct.gov.

The following conditions will apply to charitable events:

  • A maximum of 15 signs are allowed for each such event. This includes directional signs.
  • The signs may be erected not more than 2 weeks before the event and must be removed within 2 days after the publicized event.
  • The size of the sign cannot exceed 2 feet by 3 feet.
  • Non-compliance may result in the removal of signs.

Please note that this press release pertains to Town of Westport roads, and not state roads, like Route 1, Route 33, Route 57 and Route 136.

Marpe: Police, Fire Pension Contracts Now Up For Ratification

Following this morning’s post on the Westport police union’s stance on pension contract negotiations, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe issued this statement:

Both the police and firefighter union executive boards have reached agreement with the town on their pension contracts, and are presenting them to their membership for ratification.

We value all Westport employees including those in our public safety departments and are pleased that these agreements have been reached.

Ratification or rejection of those pension contracts is the next step. “06880” will report on those votes, when they are taken.

Police Union Sends SOS To Town

The Westport Police are always there for us.

But now, many officers fear, the town may not be there for them.

A member of the police union board tells “06880” that the department is in the midst of pension negotiations. He says they’re not going well.

The union member explains that when current officers joined the force, their contract called for them to pay 10% of their base salary into a pension fund. That’s among the highest in Connecticut.

In return, they were guaranteed retirement at half of their final salary with 20 years’ service — while being responsible for their own medical costs.

Pension benefits are calculated using only base salaries — no overtime.

A patrolman’s maximum salary is about $84,900. Police officers don’t receive Social Security; they stopped paying into it after a contract change many years ago.

Half of the base salary works out to roughly $42,000. But after paying 40% of medical benefits and taxes, he says, that’s hardly enough to live on here.

The current pension contract expired July 1, 2016. (A separate work contract has already been ratified.)

A number of the 64 officers on the force chafe at the town’s offer. “We work midnight shifts, weekends and holidays,” the officer says.

“We give up a lot of family time. Any traffic stop or emergency call could be our last. We can be sued civilly. Our life expectancy is less than people who are not police officers.”

Police officers never know what they’ll encounter during a traffic stop.

They’ve made some concessions in negotiations — including raising the retirement age from 49 to 52.

But talks stalled. The union’s final offer was rejected by the town.

Now they’re in arbitration. Three people — one selected by the town, one by the police union, the third neutral — will rule on one offer or the other.

The union board member says that if citizens contact their RTM members and first selectman, the town has the option to pull out of arbitration.

He notes that Westport is in “great shape” financially. The grand list has increased 15.4% since 2010.

“The great school system, parks, beaches and attractions make Westport a desirable place to live,” he says. “But they come at a price. That price is your employees. Without dedicated and hard-working employees, none of the things that make Westport unique would hold true.

“People think there’s a golden parachute. The reality is very different. We just want what we were promised.”

The union board member believes that “the fair and most logical thing the town should do is leave the current employees’ benefit alone.”

The town will change new hires’ pensions. The half-pension, half-401k hybrid “will be in Westport’s pocket going forward,” he notes.

“We took this job with the expectation we’d have certain pension benefits at retirement,” he adds. “We see this as a slap in the face to people who provide tremendous service to the town.”

He concludes, “Whenever someone in Westport needs help, they call the police. Now the Westport police need your help. Contact your RTM member, or speak directly to the first selectmen. Let them know you care.”

Oops!

Today’s Darwin Award winner is the woman in a Lincoln Navigator who flew forward in the Compo Beach Soundview Avenue parking lot.

She took out a fire hydrant.

Then she fled the scene.

But she left something important behind: her license plate.

It was stuck in the rock.

(Photos/Andrew Colabella)

I expect this case will be solved momentarily.

Summer Soiree At Pearl To Benefit 1st Responders

Westport is blessed with amazing police officers, firefighters and EMS crews.

We often say, “We can’t thank them enough.”

Here’s a way to start.

Next Saturday (September 2, 7 to 10 p.m.), Pearl at Longshore is hosting a Summer Soiree Party on its patio. With partners Valor Spirits and The Greatest Blaze, they’re donating proceeds from ticket sales to those 3 first responder departments in Westport and Fairfield.

The Greatest Blaze is an aptly named Greenwich lifestyle and premium firewood company. Valor Spirits has a long history of donating 10% of all proceeds to organizations that serve Americans.

Tickets ($75 per person, discounts for groups of 6 or more) include hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, music, raffle prizes and an auction. Click here to purchase, and for more information.

The Pearl of Longshore patio is a perfect place to honor first responders..

Be Careful Out There!

School starts Thursday. (Sorry, kids — and parents — for the buzzkill.)

To raise awareness — and reduce the chances that notoriously inattentive drivers will be surprised to see school buses and kids sharing the streets – the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association just released a public service video.

Viewers all over the state will see it. It’s clever and punchy. The stars on screen include 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Police Chief Foti Koskinas, and Westport cops, students, athletes — even our buses.

The message is clear: With buses on the road, allow extra travel time. Be alert. Don’t you dare pass when bus lights are flashing. Remind your kids how to behave too.

Perhaps Westport is featured in this statewide video because local drivers are the worst in Connecticut.

Perhaps it’s because the Concept Studio of Westport helped produce the PSA.

Perhaps it’s a combination.

Whatever the reason, it’s well worth watching.

Cops’ Kids’ Scholarship Announces Matching Grant

It’s one of the most important scholarship funds around.

And one of the least known.

Several years ago, Dr. Joan Poster and her husband Dennis searched for a way to honor Westport police officers, for all they give the town.

Their idea: scholarships for local cops’ kids. Scholarships are also available to Staples High School graduates who major in criminal justice in college.

Officers Mark Pocius and Don Rice helped organize an annual golf tournament. They’ve worked tirelessly each year, rounding up contributions for it from area businesses.

Included in the PBA golf tournament photo above are officers Mark Pocius (3rd from left) and Don Rice (3rd from right).

But the Posters think Westport citizens should contribute too.

Right now, an anonymous Westporter is matching all donations, up to $10,000.

“It’s a way of thanking our wonderful police department, which protects our beautiful community,” they say. “This is for the children of all the men and women who put their lives on the line every working day.”

(To contribute, click here, or send a check for the “Westport PBA Scholarship Fund” to: Westport PBA, 50 Jesup Road, Westport, CT 06880. For more information, call Dr. Poster: 203-259-3647.)

Another Normal Weather Day In Westport. Another Car Crash.

This one occurred on Compo Road South, near Kaiser Road. An SUV rear-ended this car. The guy who got hit went to the hospital.


Be careful out there.

End Of An Era: Safe Rides Shuts Down

SafeRides has saved its last life.

The program — which ran Saturday nights from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., providing free, confidential transportation home to any high school student in Westport — will not reopen in September.

Directors cite 2 reasons: lack of volunteers, and Uber.

SafeRides began in May, 2009. It was the inspiration of Staples High School senior Alex Dulin — a 1-girl tornado who had recently moved here from suburban Seattle. Just 5 months later, she received the 2009 Youth Leadership Award from the Connecticut Youth Services Association.

For nearly a decade, SafeRides thrived. A board of directors — all high school students — organized volunteer drivers. It was a lot of responsibility, with plenty of training.

SafeRides volunteers, waiting for calls.

But it was fun too. Working in a room donated by Christ & Holy Trinity Church — and munching on pizzas delivered free every week by Westport Pizzeria — dispatchers and drivers ferried teenagers too drunk (or otherwise incapable or unable) to get in a car, from parties or friends’ houses back home.

There was plenty of support. The Westport Police Department backed the program. Kiwanis Club provided an insurance policy. And Westport Wash & Wax offered free cleaning to any driver whose passenger got sick. (It happened a few times.)

But starting last year, numbers — of volunteers and riders — dropped drastically.

A year ago there were 7, 10, 12 calls a night — with 12, 15 or 18 riders. Now there were just 1 or 2 calls, with 2 or 3 riders.

Several times this past school year — lacking enough volunteer supervisors, dispatchers and drivers — SafeRides did not operate.

“The kids on the board tried hard to keep it going. A lot of people tried,” SafeRides president Maureen Coogan says. “There just weren’t the numbers.”

She noted that  SafeRides collected users’ cell numbers — and would only drive teenagers home, not to another party, the diner or McDonald’s.

Uber has none of those requirements. It often arrived quicker than SafeRides.

And — by using a parent’s credit card — Uber seemed as “free” as SafeRides actually was.

“It’s sad for kids who don’t have their parent’s credit card,” Coogan says. “What are we showing our kids — that it’s okay to take their parent’s credit card and do whatever they want?

“And for the community, it’s sad. My daughter had a blast volunteering with her friends. It’s sad that kids will grow up without that sense of giving up a couple of Saturday nights, to volunteer.”

There’s no way of knowing how many lives SafeRides saved. But Westport has not had a teenage traffic fatality in many years. It certainly worked.

Now saving lives is Uber’s responsibility.

Post Road Remains Closed Near Southport

The Post Road has been since 11:30 a.m., between Maple Avenue and Bulkley. Police are investigating a serious motor vehicle accident, with injuries.

(Photo/Seth Goltzer)

That’s right. This happened on a clear Wednesday morning, with presumably moderate traffic.

It’s one more reminder of the speed and lack of attention with which too many people drive around here.

It also could have been a medical emergency.

Be careful out there.