Tag Archives: Police Chief Foti Koskinas

“Westport … What’s Happening?” Jen Tooker & Foti Koskinas, Part 2

The previous “Westport … What’s Happening?” podcast — with 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker interviewing Police Chief Foti Koskinas — came on the heels of a Staples High School lockdown.

In this second part of the series, Chief Foti talks about the Westport Police Department’s neighborhood meetings, traffic (reasons and resources) and manpower.

“Westport … What’s Happening?” is a service of the Y’s Men of Westport and Weston. Click below to listen.

“What’s Happening, Westport?” Jen Tooker & Foti Koskinas

In the aftermath of last Friday’s lockdown at Staples, the Y’s Men of Westport and Weston’s podcast with Jen Tooker takes a different approach.

This week, the 1st selectwoman interviews Police Chief Foti Koskinas. He talks candidly about that day, including the importance of Staples’ school resource officer, and the emotional and psychological toll on staff, students and his officers.

Koskinas praises Staples principal Stafford Thomas and everyone at the school, while acknowledging how tough it was for all. It’s an inside look into a day that anyone who was there will not soon forget.

Tooker also asks Koskinas about Westport policing in general.

Click below for a very intriguing 9 minutes.

New Police Traffic Unit Targets Aggressive, Distracted Drivers

When Jen Tooker ran for 1st Selectman last fall, one main issues was traffic.

This spring, she organized 9 meetings — one for each Representative Town Meeting — with high-level Police Department officials. Residents shared their biggest traffic concerns.

Tooker and Police leader separated the issues into 3 buckets: relatively simple fixes; those needing longer-term attention, and “sorry, unfortunately impossible.”

Starting soon, the Westport Police will have a tool for addressing one complaint they heard at every meeting: aggressive and distracted drivers.

A new Traffic Safety Unit will target “motor vehicle enforcement on area roadways.” Two officers — Scott Thompson and Dominique Carr — will devote all their time to traffic issues.

“Traffic safety has always been one of our top priorities,” says Police Chief Foti Koskinas.

“But our officers are very busy. They spend a lot of their time answering calls. We don’t want to assign someone to an hour at a particular location, then all of a sudden they have to respond to a call.

“So we’re re-allocating our resources. The Traffic Safety Unit officers will work strictly on this.”

AFter the 9 RTM meetings, Koskinas’ department identified 55 Westport sites where targeted enforcement could help. Some might be where drivers routinely plow through lights or stop signs; others might attract particularly aggressive or fast (even for Westport) drivers.

Rush hour — with commuter and school traffic — will be one of the highest priorities.

The traffic agent at Bedford Middle School may get some help from the new Traffic Safety Unit. (Photo/Adam Vengrow)

Officers Thompson and Carr will work regular shifts: 5 days on, 2 off. But those shifts will be staggered, so the Traffic Unit will operate 7 days a week. The officers will sometimes work alone, sometimes with other patrol cars.

“We realize traffic can be frustrating,” Koskinas says. “And coming out of COVID, we know that driving habits have changed.

“We think this Traffic Safety Unit will address what we’ve heard. And we continue to encourage feedback from residents about traffic, and how we address it.”

The new unit begins this week.

Roundup: Restaurant Week, Organic Krush, Mushrooms …

Restaurant Week returns! In fact, it’s “Restaurant 2 Weeks.”

The popular Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event begins  tomorrow (Sunday, September 25). It runs through October 9. Part of an “Eat Local” campaign, it follows the successful Slice of Saugatuck Festival.

This year, 21 restaurants all over town offer prix fixe meals, in a wide range of cuisines and prices. Each eatery sets their own prices and hours.

Here are the participating restaurants. “L” means lunch; “D” is for dinner; “B” for brunch. Click a link where applicable for menus (some are pending — click here for the most up-to-date information).

Allium Eatery (L)
Amis (L,D)
Boathouse (L,D)
Capuli  (L,D)
De Tapas (L,D)
Don Memo (L)
Gray Goose (L)
Harvest (D,B)
Kawa Ni (L)
La Plage (L,D)
Pane E Bene (D)
Rive Bistro (L,D)
Rizzutos (D)
Romanacci (L,D)
Spotted Horse Tavern (L)
TAJ (L,D)
Tarantino (D)
Terrain (D)
The Whelk (L)
Tutti’s Restaurant (L,D)
Via Sforza (L,D)

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The hour-long CNN “Champions for Change” special — hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and featuring Westport’s own Police Chief Foti Koskinas — airs tomorrow (Saturday, September 24, 8 p.m.).

“06880” previously gave an incorrect date of Sunday. Tune in tomorrow! (Hat tip: Alisyn Camerota)

    • Screenshot from CNN: Alisyn Camerota and Chief Foti Koskinas.

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A GoFundMe page has been set up, to help with the education of the children of Mark Blake, the popular and long-serving Westport and Weston Emergency Medical Service supervisor and volunteer, who died Tuesday of complications from COVID. Click here to donate.

    • Mark Blake

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With low-key publicity — and high security — former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak spoke at Temple Israel Tuesday night.

Drawing on his experience as a military leader and cabinet minister, he discussed ongoing tensions in the region, threats from Iran and more.

    • Ehud Barak, at Temple Israel. (Photo/JC Martin)

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As the school year begins, Organic Krush reminds teachers that they get a 10% discount — year round. Founder Michelle Walrath — a former teacher — is proud to honor educators “invaluable service.”

She also adds a plug for their new spiced pumpkin smoothie and pumpkin donuts. “Off the charts!” she says.

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“The Wonderful World of Mushrooms” comes to Wakeman Town Farm on October 24 (7 p.m.).

The free lecture is a deep dive, with experts from Essential Earth Farm.

WTF says: “During a billion years of evolution, fungi have become masters of survival. They are primary decomposers that keep our forests alive. They play an integral role in decomposition.”

Attendees will gain a deeper understanding of the intricate relationship between fungi, soil, and environmental and human health. Click here to register.

    • (Photo/Peter Gold)

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Robin Frank writes: “In anticipation of Halloween, let’s remember the dead by investigating art’s historic role in celebrating and memorializing loss.

“Join me for a free lecture called “Hauntings: Death and Desire in American Art” (October 6, 7 p.m., at Museum for History & Culture). Artists of all generations have made the absent present through haunting imagery, ranging from the seductive to the spectral, from portraits to seemingly haunted domestic spaces immortalizing intimate and moving stories.”

Click here for more information, and registration.

    • A haunting image.

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Sorelle Gallery’s next exhibition — “Cosmic Botany” — features artist Roger Mudre.

His work is inspired by patterns of nature, and the circle as the perfect form. Titling each painting after plants, he draws upon “microscopic worlds, cellular growth, auras, the cosmos, and places unseen, only imagined.”

The exhibit runs October 1 through 23. An opening reception and artist meet-and-greet is set for October 1 (4:30 to 6:30 p.m.). Click here for more information.

    • Art by Roger Mudre

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‘Tis the season for nests. Today’s “Westport … Naturally” scary-looking one was spotted on Bermuda Road, by Ken Yormark:

    • (Photo/Ken Yormark)

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And finally … in honor of Wakeman Town Farm’s upcoming lecture on mushrooms (story above):

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Chief Foti: A CNN Champion For Change

With his calm demeanor, commitment to equality and constant outreach to the public, Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas has earned the respect of all Westporters.

This coming week, the entire country will share in our pride.

“Champions for Change” — CNN’s week-long series highlighting “bright examples of humanity who give hope and inspiration” — returns for a 6th year tomorrow. On Saturday, September 24 (8 p.m.), Dr. Sanjay Gupta hosts an hour-long special featuring all 12 champions.

One of them is Chief Foti.

A camera crew spent several days in Westport last month, filming interviews with him, other officers, town officials and Foti fans.

Among them: CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota, a fellow Westporter. CNN says her “passion for law enforcement stems back to her time as a justice correspondent. Now she introduces us to a top cop in the state she calls home. Chief Foti Koskinas and his Westport, Connecticut police force are restoring faith in American law enforcement with innovative community involvement. The beloved local Chief immigrated to the US as a boy, speaking no English, and grew up to be a nationally esteemed law enforcement visionary.”

In addition to being part of the September 24 special, Foti’s piece airs twice: Wednesday, September 21 (during the 2 p.m. hour) and Friday, September 23 (during the 11 a.m. hour).

Alisyn will introduce both pieces during the newscast. It will likely be in the second half of the hour, after hard news.

Click here for CNN’s promo video. (Hat tip: Marshall Kiev)

Roundup: Catch A Lift, Wynston Browne, Railroad Bridge …

For the past decade, Westport has had a special relationship with Catch A Lift Fund. The national non-profit provides gym memberships and home gym equipment to help wounded post-9/11 service members heal physically and mentally, through physical fitness.

Westporters have donated funds, welcomed veterans, and joined in workouts at venues like the police station, VFW, beach and Birchwood Country Club. The vets give plenty back in return — as inspiration, and  serving as “angels” for children, teens and adults with disabilities through myTeamTriumph.

This year, Westport organizers invite our Fairfield neighbors to join us. Our first-ever Catch a Lift Golf & Tennis Outing is set for September 12, at the Patterson Club.

Click here for the many ways to participate, through golf, tennis, the cocktail party, and as sponsors.

And — because the vets are naturally competitive, in the gym and in life — this golf and tennis event involves a bit of competition too.

Check out the video below, to see the challenges between the Westport and Fairfield police chiefs and 1st selectwomen.

Because this is “06880,” not “06430,” I’m putting my money squarely on Foti and Jen.

 

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Speaking of special people: Wynston Browne’s story inspired many “06880” readers last month. The rising Staples High School sophomore is non-speaking autistic, but he is highly intelligent. He’s made spectacular strides recently using a communication device.

Today (Wednesday, August 10, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.), Wynston will “speak” (via his letter board) with interested residents at The Porch @ Christie’s.

He looks forward to sharing and learning more about everyone who stops by.

Wynston and his communication partner Elisa Feinman, at work with his spelling board.

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Elise Zimmerman asks: “Did you (and your readers know) that the tracks at the Westport train station flip up — like a draw bridge — for big boats?

“I witnessed this engineering feat today, and was very impressed. The train was delayed only a few minutes.”

I can’t speak for any other readers, but I sure knew.

In an amazing coincidence though, just 2 hours earlier Seth Schachter had sent me a collector’s postcard. It shows the same scene, from a different angle.

And from about 100 years earlier:

(Postcard courtesy of Seth Schachter)

Elise adds: “Do any of the other bridges on the Saugatuck River open up? If not, where is the boat going?!”

Have a seat, Elise. Let me tell you about the William F. Cribari Bridge …

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Bass master Brian Torff headlines tomorrow’s Jazz at the Post.

That’s the special Thursday night jazz series at VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399. Sets begin at 7 and 8:30 p.m.; dinner from 6:30, from chef Derek Furino.

The cover is just $10. Reservations are strongly recommended; email JazzatThePost@gmail.com.

Plan ahead:

  • August 18, David Morgan Trio
  • August 25: Ben Williams Jazz All-Stars
  • September 1: Rob Henke’s Cook County Stompers.

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Everything you ever wanted to know about telescopes, but didn’t even know to ask.

That’s the subject of the next Westport Astronomical Society’s lecture (August 16, 8 p.m.). Observatory director Bob Meadows is back from the 86tn Convention of Amateur Telescope Makers in Vermont, and will dish on the latest innovations.

Click here for the Zoom link; click here to watch on YouTube.

The Westport Observatory has a very impressive telescope. (Photo/Frank Rosen)

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Amy Simon Fine Art’s next exhibition (August 13 to September 17) is “Never-Ending Stories.” Featured artists are Clara Fialho and Ayse Wilson.

The gallery is at 123 Post Road East.

“Walking Through a Rose Garden Naked” (Clara Fialho)

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Wendy Van Wie sends along a “Westport … Naturally” challenge: Can you find the 3 goldfinches hiding in the sunflowers?

(Photo/Wendy Van Wie)

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And finally … Lamont Dozier died Monday in Arizona. He was 81.

I love many genres of music. But Motown is at the top of my list.

And for many of us who grew up listening to it, the songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland was Motown.

They crafted an astonishing 80-plus Top 40 pop or R&B hits. An amazing 15 went to #1 — including 10 by the Supremes.

Click here for a full obituary. Click here for a list of all their songs. Then click “Comments” below to share your favorites.

It’s tough. My top 5 are here:

“Suspicious Person” Caused School Shelter-In-Place Order

The Westport Police Department says:

At approximately 9 a.m. today, the Westport Police Department’s School Security Officer and the Staples School Resource Officer began to investigate a report of a suspicious person on school grounds.

An unknown male who appeared to be in his teens was dropped off at Bedford Middle School, but the person then left that campus and walked towards Staples High School.

The incident was deemed suspicious because at the time no one recognized this individual, and it was unknown what he was doing on school property.  Out of an abundance of caution, the school’s superintendent placed both Bedford Middle School and Staples High School in a shelter in place status.

Several patrol officers responded to make sure that students at both schools were kept safe, and to look for this unknown person.  Westport detectives also went to the scene and worked with school officials to attempt to identify the party.

It was ultimately determined that the person in question was in fact a Staples student. The student was simply running late and after managing to get a ride to Bedford, he walked over to Staples.

Chief Foti Koskinas said that “this was the best possible outcome,” and that the timely resolution of this incident is a testament to “the excellent working relationship that the police department has with the school system.”

Happy 50th, Foti!

Foti Koskinas celebrated his 50th birthday in style today.

The popular Westport Police chief turns half a century young this month. This morning, he got ready to participate in a workout/fundraiser for one of his favorite charities: the Catch a Lift Fund for wounded veterans.

But right before he began, a convoy drove past the police station. His wife, daughter and friends had gathered a group of Foti’s many fans, at the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

Among them: former 1st selectman Jim Marpe and his wife, Fire Chief Michael Kronick, Planning & Zoning chair Danielle Dobin, and others whose lives he has impacted.

Gathering in the parking lot (from left): Mary Ellen Marpe, former 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Marshall Kiev.

Then — with a police escort — they drove around the corner to fete Foti. He was surprised and thrilled.

The birthday convoy arrives.

And then he did his fundraiser, with a smile.

Happy birthday, Chief — from all who were there, and the many other Westporters who are grateful for your service.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas and Human Services Department director Elaine Daignault, at today’s surprise birthday celebration. (Photos/Dan Woog)

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)