Tag Archives: Police Chief Foti Koskinas

Thank You, Foti & Sam

The bad news: Police Chief Foti Koskinas is retiring, effective Thursday. So is his right hand man, Deputy Chief Sam Arciola.

The good news: Both will be retained under contract. Koskinas will serve  through October 22, 2024. Arciola serves through December 31, 2022.

The two men — whose steady, passionate and compassionate leadership has earned praise and trust, at a time when police departments nationwide face enormous criticism — will receive full retirement benefits. Koskinas became eligible in July; Arciola has been eligible since 2016.

However, says 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, “at this sensitive time in the evolution of police accountability and responsibilities at the national and local levels,” a change in leadership could be disruptive.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas (center), Deputy Chief Sam Arciola (right) and officer Ned Batlin, at a Staples High School “Dodge-a-Cop” event. Police officers and Staples students played dodgeball, with and against each other.

He notes that while members of the WPD leadership team are “well on theier way to stepping into the chief and deputy chief roles,” they need more time to develop “the full range of skills and community relationships” to be successful.

The contract relationship, Marpe says, will benefit Westport from a continuity standpoint, and financially.

Koskinas began his Westport police career in 1996, 6 years after Arciola. They were promoted to their current positions in 2016.

Koskinas calls himself “honored and humbled to have had the opportunity to work with and for the town of Westport. Aside from my family, the last 27 years have been some of the most exciting and gratifying times of my life, while serving and working alongside members of this community. I am confident that we will have continued successes as we navigate through some difficult times in our country, and certainly in law enforcement.”

At the 2017 July 4th fireworks, Police Chief Foti Koskinas gave Ben Kiev a seat on his motorcycle.

He has had several offers, from the public and private sectors. However, he notes, “I never pictured or imagined myself wearing a uniform other than that of the Westport Police Department. I sincerely look forward to the opportunity to continue serving Westport for another 3 years.”

Both Koskinas and Arciola love their work. They have made the Westport Police Department stronger and more effective — and by doing so, have made Westport a better place.

Full disclosure: I have known Koskinas since he was a Long Lots Junior High School student, newly arrived from Greece and knowing no English.

I’ve known Arciola — and his extended family — even longer. The Arciola name is revered in Saugatuck.

I watched both with pride and gratitude over the past year. The two men — and others on the force — worked with Black Lives Matter leaders to make sure that last summer’s protests were safe and respectful. At the same time, they did not shy away from acknowledging that police departments everywhere have work to do.

Similarly, Koskinas and Arciola ensured that other rallies — for Asian Americans, the LGBTQ community and, most recently, housing fairness — were peaceful yet powerful.

Chief Foti Koskinas with Black Lives Matter protesters, last June. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Much of their work takes place in the public eye. Much also takes place far from it. Here’s one story that demonstrates how Foti Koskinas and Sam Arciola operate.

A few months ago, a memorial bench went missing from Compo Beach. Relatives of the man the bench honored were distraught.

Two days later, Koskinas called to tell me it had been recovered, I asked who the officers were, so I could thank them publicly. He said — reluctantly — that he and Arciola were involved.

However, he asked that I keep their names out of it. He wanted the entire force to be recognized.

Sure, the chief asked not to be mentioned. But that’s the kind of men Foti Koskinas and Sam Arciola are: caring, hard-working, genuinely dedicated to their community.

Besides, what’s he going to do? Arrest me?

Police And Schools: Traffic Enforcement, Safety Are Key Goals

After this morning’s report that a Westport police officer will be assigned to patrol our 5 elementary and 2 middle schools (one is already assigned to Staples High), a reader wondered about the officer’s role.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas explains that that main objective is “better safety,” particularly “significant traffic enforcement around school zones.” That includes roadways near schools, parking lots and buses.

The officer will check each school daily. He or she will also work with the WPD’s Public Safety division, to study and make suggestions for better signage near school zones.

The officer’s primary duty is not to enter the schools. “That’s a very limited role,” Koskinas notes.

However, the officer will have specialized training, similar to Staples’ School Resource Officer. He or she will be able to see any issues involving students through the entire process, from beginning to end.

During COVID last year, a student decorated a rock for the Westport Police Department. (Photo/Amy Berkin)

“06880” Podcast: Police Chief Foti Koskinas

If you don’t know Foti Koskinas: you should. As Westport’s Police Chief, he impacts our all of our lives, in many ways. Public safety, traffic control, railroad parking — the Police Department does it all.

And if you don’t know Foti Koskinas’ back story — or his policing philosophy, and views on social justice — you should.

Which means you should check out the latest “06880” podcast. The other day, I sat with Chief Foti at the Westport Library. Our conversation covered everything from the recent rash of car thefts, to why fixing one traffic light adversely affects another, to his experiences as a teenage immigrant in Westport.

Click here for our fascinating chat. Hail to the Chief!

Chief Foti Koskinas

 

Railroad Parking: What Drives Empty Spots

It may have been the most vivid reminder of COVID’s effect on Westport: our nearly deserted train stations.

Now, more than 16 months into the pandemic, both Saugatuck and Greens Farms parking lots remain almost entirely vacant, every day of the week.

Many Westporters still work from home. Others have forsaken the train for increasingly clogged I-95 and Merritt Parkway.

June 30 marked the deadline for train station parking permit renewals. Yet despite the precipitous drop in ridership, most folks have paid to hold on to their precious passes.

The new normal (Photo/Dinkin Fotografix)

Railroad parking is under the purview of the Westport Police Department. (I don’t know why. But they do it well.)

According to Police Chief Foti Koskinas and director of railroad operations Sam Arciola, there are 2,500 total available spaces, at Saugatuck and Greens Farms.

Even in pre-coronavirus times, not everyone utilized their spots every day. By monitoring usage closely, the Police Department knows how many permits to issue each year.

In July 2020, there were 3,900 permits. About 70% went to Westport residents. Another 900 people were on the wait list.

This year, only 3,100 people requested permits. That cut the wait list nearly in half, to 490.

Why did the WPD not issue permits to everyone on the wait list?

With commuting patterns in flux — and a number of New York offices reopening this fall — Koskinas and Arciola were watching what happens. Now, they’re ready to offer permits to everyone on the wait list. That will happen around August 1.

Meanwhile, they see renewed interest from former parking permit holders who did not renew by June 30, but now wish to.

“We welcome them to reapply,” Koskinas says. Former permit holders — and anyone else with questions — should call 203-341-6052.

(Hat tip: David Loffredo)

In the absence of commuters, utility crews used the Greens Farms railroad station as a staging area after last year’s Hurricane Isaias. (Photo/Robert Cornfield)

Pride Lights: The Sequel

This morning’s possible bias crime destruction of Pride lights on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge drew swift reaction.

Westport Police quickly identified the responsible party. They’re working with the state Attorney’s Office on a possible motive, and potential criminal charges.

The Westport Downtown Association quickly installed colored balloons, replacing those that were taken.

Replacing the colored lights. (Screenshot from News12)

And a group of volunteers — including Police Chief Foti Koskinas, RTM members Harris Falk and Sal Liccione, Emma Rojas of the WDA, Rae Suba of Child’s Play Clinic and activist Sarah Manning — hung the same banner that decorated the Pride rally 6 days earlier.

Where is it?

On the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.

Not far from the lights that could not be dimmed by last night’s action.

Hanging proudly on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.

Traffic Cop, Traffic Light: The Sequel

Police Chief Foti Koskinas feels Westport drivers’ pains. He hears their pleas for a traffic cop on Riverside Avenue, at the Cribari Bridge. The Westport Police Department is on the case.

But there is another side to Westport’s traffic woes too.

Driving habits have changed dramatically during COVID, Koskinas and public safety officer Al D’Amura say. Though Westporters have returned to work, all but 1oo or so of the Saugatuck and Greens Farms train station parking spots are empty every day. Those folks drive instead.

The situation is the same at every train station from Greenwich to New Haven. That’s why I-95 and the Merritt Parkway have become parking lots.

Looking for every bit of help, drivers turn to apps like Waze. Offered an alternate route, they take it.

Which is why we see more and more backups on Riverside Avenue. As well as Wilton Road, Cross Highway, Long Lots Road — anywhere Waze says is even slightly better. It’s a problem at I-95 exits 17 and 18, and Merritt exits 41 and 42.

When William Cribari and other officers were posted at what was then called the Bridge Street Bridge, Koskinas says, they facilitated 100 to 200 vehicles to and from trains.

Traffic is no longer timed to trains, Koskinas explains. Moving traffic off the bridge in the morning, and through Riverside Avenue in the evening, sounds like a great idea.

But Waze and traffic apps would immediately sense the smoother flow — making the alternate route off I-95 even more appealing to highway drivers.

A traffic officer will immiediately take over the Riverside Avenue post made famous by William William Cribari (Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

Still — starting immediately – there will be an officer on Riverside by the bridge, in the late afternoon.

“We’ll monitor the situation, to see if it helps or hurts,” Koskinas says.

“We may find that as much as people don’t like waiting through 4 or 5 light cycles, it’s better than having 300 more cars coming through Saugatuck. We don’t know what we’ll find for sure. We’ll study it.”

That’s not the only new traffic post in town. An agent will be posted from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Post Road/Wilton Road/Riverside Avenue intersection.

Actually, it’s not “new.” As a young officer, Koskinas once manned that corner.

Facilitating traffic there impacts other lights on the Post Road. For example, waving through more cars from Wilton Road might cause more of a temporary backup through the already congested downtown area.

“We understand the importance to merchants, and everyone,” Koskinas says. As with Saugatuck, he and D’Amura will monitor the situation closely.

As for another suggestion from an “06880” reader — installation of a light at the top of I-95 eastbound Exit 18 — Koskinas says, “we fully support it. It’s come up before.” His department — in collaboration with the Board of Selectmen — will make that recommendation to the state Department of Transportation.

Sherwood Island Connector is a state road. There will be engineering studies, and budget issues. It could take a while.

So for now, you might want to get off at Exit 17. A traffic cop there will move traffic along.

Or maybe he’ll inadvertently invite other I-95 drivers to join you.

New Civilian Panel Reviews Police

Soon after the 2013 election, new First Selectman Jim Marpe met with Police Chief Dale Call and Deputy Chief Foti Koskinas.

“I’d never been a police officer,” Marpe — a former management consultant — says. “I needed their best input.”

Today, he notes, “I’m a lot smarter about their activity — and the Fire Department, and EMS.” Though the leaders of those department report to him, Marpe describes their relationship as “more collaborative than command-and-control.”

Nearly 5 years ago, Marpe appointed Koskinas as chief of police. He continued what Call had begun: a review of policies and procedures to reflect new national policing standards.

Westport’s manual dated back to 1972. It was one year younger than Koskinas.

The department enjoys an excellent reputation. In 7 years, Marpe says, “I don’t need 2 hands to count the number of genuine, legitimate complaints we’ve gotten — and that includes the Fire Department too.”

Nationally of course, police departments face intense scrutiny.

So — in addition to weekly meetings, and many more frequent phone conversations — Marpe has created a Citizen Review Panel. To “foster and maintain the public’s trust” in its public safety departments, the panel will:

  • Participate in the interview process of new hires and lateral transfer applicants of the Police, Fire and EMS Departments
  • Review and provide feedback on complaints
  • Advise the departments on policies and procedures that improve transparency and accountability.

CRP members will be trained to understand policies, internal affairs and legal issues. They’ll hold regular public meetings.

The CRP will include the 2nd and 3rd selectmen (currently Jen Tooker and Melissa Kane); one member of TEAM Westport, and 2 members of the Westport electorate. Marpe has appointed TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey to the panel, and will name the 2 other members soon.

Westport Police Chief Fotios Koskinas (Photo/Dan Woog)

Koskinas says that the police union is on board with the CRP. “They want accountability and transparency too,” he says.

Westport’s police already meet or exceed the state’s Police Office Standards and Training (POST) guidelines in areas like body cameras, chokehold procedures and more. Minority recruitment — including the most recent hire — is “the most diverse ever,” says Koskinas.

“But we want an outside party to see the complaints that come in. We want to highlight how well we handle our internal policing.” Sometimes, he says, an investigation turns up an issue that the initial complaint did not even include.

In 2016 there were 6 civilian complaints against the Police Department. The next year there were 5, then 6 and 8. In 2020, there have been a total of 3. Complaints against the Fire Department and EMS are even lower.

Most police complaints, Koskinas says, involve citizens dissatisfied with an interaction with an officer.

“It may be the way someone stopped the car or spoke to that person,” Koskinas explains.

“We look at the body camera. Maybe the officer spoke in a monotone. We try to explain what goes into controlling a scene.” Often, he says, a complaint is then withdrawn.

“But we do speak to the officers. We do adjust policies. We take every complaint seriously.”

Nearly all police interactions with the public are positive.

The Representative Town Meeting is currently examining a Civilian Review Board ordinance. Its members would be elected by the public.

Already though, the Civilian Review Panel is up and running. They are reviewing their first incident.

“Mr. Marpe and I believe in this,” Koskinas says. “We want to set it up for long success.”

Roundup: RBG, EV, IVF, More

A crowd of 75 people — of all ages — gathered last night at Westport’s Unitarian Church to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The vigil was held while the late US Supreme Court justice was being honored in Washington, DC.

(Photo/David Vita)


Pink Aid is going semi-virtual.

The renowned breast cancer organization celebrates their 10th anniversary on Saturday, October 10 at Mitchells of Westport.

There’s a fashion show featuring Brunello Cucinelli; video appearances by the CMA-winning band Old Dominion, Hoda Kotb, Giuliana Rancic and Susie Essman from “Curb Your Enthusiasm”; a photo booth, and mixologist.

But you can also enjoy Pink Aid’s gala at home.

You can pick up a “Pink Aid Party in a Box” at Mitchells’ Westport or Greenwich stores. Charcuterie boards and dinners from Marcia Selden Catering will be delivered in Fairfield and Westchester counties.

For tickets and more information, click here.


Who doesn’t love a parade? Particularly one that — these days — includes everyone driving their own cars.

As part of National Drive Electric Week — who knew?! — 1st Selectman Jim Marpe will wave the checkered flag on Sunday (September 27, 10 p.m.). The site is Donut Crazy, in the Westport train station eastbound parking.

Organized by the Electric Vehicle Club of Connecticut and Sustainable Fairfield Task Force, a parade of 30 EVs will be led through downtown and into Fairfield by

Organized by the Electric Vehicle Club of Connecticut & Sustainable Fairfield Task Force as part of National Drive Electric Week. Marpe will speak and wave the checkered flag to kick it off, and the parade of ~30 decorated & flagged electric vehicles will be led through downtown Westport and into Fairfield by Police Chief Foti Koskinas. He’ll drive (of course) the department’s Tesla Model 3.

Electric vehicles in the parade include a 1903 Baker Torpedo, Vespa Elettrica scooter, Porsche Taycan, Volkswagen E-Golf, Jaguar i-Pace, Nissan Leaf, Kia Soul, Chevy Bolt, and Tesla Models Y, S, and 3.

Socially distant spectators welcome all along the parade route. Click here to see.


Timothy Cole’s The Sea Glass Mysteries goes on sale October 6. He says:

“I want to take the reader on a fun romp through the seamy underside of a wealthy seaside suburbia.

“In this case, the scene of the crime is a highbrow enclave within Westport, Connecticut…yes, home to solid strivers, but with a light sprinkling of moguls and misanthropes.

“Our unlikely protagonist? Ex-CIA intelligence officer Dasha Petrov. Think Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple with a Russian accent.

“She’s now retired from her secret life in America’s clandestine services. But her skills remain pin sharp as she teams with a Westport police detective and a local television reporter. Sergeant Anthony DeFranco becomes Westport’s finest as he confronts treachery in his own ranks….

To learn more — and order — click here.


What is called Connecticut’s “first non-conventional IVF center” opens in Westport on November 2.

Rejuvenating Fertility Center is founded by Dr. Zaher Merhi. He has served Manhattan residents for more than a decade. One of the managers is Jessica Haroun, a 2014 Staples High School grad.

RFC services include ovarian rejuvenation, natural (non-medication, no blood draw) IVF, and ozone sauna therapy. The location is 225 Main Street.


And finally … Roy Hammond — better known as Roy “C” — died last week at 81. A soul singer, he also wrote and produced the Honey Drippers’ “Impeach the President.” The New York Times called it “a political funk barnstormer released in 1973 as the Watergate scandal unfolded around President Richard M. Nixon. It was resuscitated just over a decade later by the Queens hip-hop producer Marley Marl, who sampled its crisp drum intro for MC Shan’s ‘The Bridge.’ Released in 1986, that track caused a tectonic shift in the sound of New York rap.”

Roundup: Fitness, Virtual Slice, Trash, More


When is downtown Westport not an outdoor shopping mall?

When it turns into a Fitness & Wellness Expo.

That was the scene yesterday. Pure Barre, JoyRide, Row House and Athleta sponsored outdoor classes on Main Street. Vendors like Restore Cryo, Fleet Feet and New England Hemp Farm helped educate consumers. Church Lane merchants added wellness specials.

Everyone wore masks. And if they didn’t have one, the Westport Downtown Merchants Association — sponsors of the intriguing event — gave them one.

Work it!

Among the participants: 2nd Selectwoman Jen Tooker and Police Chief Foti Koskinas, in the photo below:


Yesterday would have been the 9th annual Slice of Saugatuck. It got squashed by the coronavirus — but the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce did the next best thing.

They produced a video, showing the shops, restaurants and people who make up that vibrant community. Whether you’re a newcomer, old-timer or long-gone Westporter, check below for a 6-minute stroll through Saugatuck.

One more Chamber note: They’ve added a 2nd “Supper & Soul” socially distanced tailgate show featuring Terrapin: A Grateful Dead Experience (Friday, October 2; 7 p.m.). Tickets go on sale Monday at 10 a.m.; click here.


Westporter Helen Lowman is president and CEO of Keep America Beautiful. Next Sunday — September 20 — her organization hosts its 2nd annual TrashDash. The goal is for people to create cleaner streets, parks, and waterfronts by “plogging” (picking up litter while jogging).

It will be held officially at Mill River Park in Stamford (the city where Keep America Beautiful is headquartered) — but anyone can join in their own community, wherever it is. Just grab a bag and gloves and pick up litte. You don’t even have to jog!

Click here for more information.


The Westport River Dancers performed at the Rowing Club yesterday. It was a cancer fundraiser for Norwalk Hospital’s Row for Recovery.

Check out these dancing queens (and one king): Debra Montner, Hilary Solder, Eva Grant-Rawiszer, Suzanne Harvey, Jill Alcott Ferreday and Michael Chait. All are Westporters — and they met their $10,000 goal!


And finally … Toots Hibbert, who introduced reggae to the world — died Friday in Jamaica. He was believed to be 77, and was reported to have suffered from COVID-like symptoms. He and his group — Toots and the Maytals — had international hits like this:

Take A Tour With The Tesla Cops

Tesla is touting Westport’s new police car. The Teslerati blog says:

A Tesla Model 3 has been patrolling the streets of Westport, Connecticut, since January 2020. However, an inside look at how effective the Model 3’s performance is for the law enforcement agency has never been given. That is until Westport Police Department Chief Foti Koskinas gave 2 members of the Now You Know YouTube channel a peek of how patrolling the streets of the small Connecticut town in an electric police car is advantageous for those who look to protect the community….

“Chief Koskinas seems pleased with the Tesla’s performance during the first 8 months of ownership, and efficiency and performance seem to be the main factors in his happiness thus far.

Click here for the story. Click below for the video.

PS: Check out the YouTube comments too. My favorite: “Just Awesome, what a PD, Chief, Officers and Town. Sometimes it can feel lonely caring about this planet, but this kind of steps and thinking gives hope.” (Hat tip: Avi Kaner)