Tag Archives: Police Chief Foti Koskinas

Roundup: Beach, Pool, Golf And Tennis News; #ILoveWestport; Lucky Grad; Fireworks; More


Here’s the latest update from Westport Parks & Rec:

Starting Wednesday, July 1, lifeguards will staff Compo and Burying Hill beaches from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. All regular beach rules will be enforced, in addition to all COVID-19 rules. Boogie boards and skim boards are permitted.

The Longshore pools will remain closed, due to state restrictions and limited staffing resources.

Parks and Rec director Jennifer Fava says her department “will continue to monitor the guidance from the state, Should restrictions ease, and we can staff appropriately, we will reevaluate the possibility of opening the pool complex.”

Starting tomorrow (Saturday, June 27), 2 players may share a golf cart. Both must wear face coverings in the cart, and the same person must drive the cart the entire time. Exception: members of the same household are not required to wear face covering in a cart, and valid drivers may alternate.

Also starting tomorrow, all tennis courts at Longshore, Staples High School, Town Farm and Doubleday (behind Saugatuck School) are open for both singles and doubles play. All platform tennis and pickleball courts are open for singles and doubles too.


During the lockdown, town officials emphasized: “We’re all in this together.”

That’s the message during reopening too. To drive it home, they asked a variety of people to make personal promises for keeping everyone healthy.

Anthony John Rinaldi taped those promises. He’s making them into a series of videos, all tagged #ILoveWestport.

In the first one, restaurant owner Bill Taibe promises to keep cooking. Farmers’ Market director Lori McDougall promises to support local vendors. Police Chief Foti Koskinas promises to keep Westporters safe.

There are more too, in this quick video — including a special “06880” appearance. Click below to see.


Like many Westporters, Serkan Elden kept his “Proud Family of 2020 Staples High School Graduate” sign up, even after the ceremony 2 weeks ago. He is justifiably proud of his daughter Deniz, a great member of the senior class that went through so much this year.

Someone else is proud too.

The other day Deniz found an envelope in the Eldens’ mailbox. It was addressed simply: “The Graduate.”

Inside she found a note: “Congratulations 2020! Hope this is a Winner! Good Luck. From, Anonymous Lyons Plain Rd. Neighbor.”

Attached was a Double Match lottery scratch card.

She did not win. 😦 But odds are good that this is a gift Deniz will remember long after the coronavirus is history.


If you missed last weekend’s “Stand Up (At Home) for Homes with Hope” comedy show — no problem.

An encore presentation is set for Wednesday (July 1, 8 p.m.). Four very funny comedians joined Staples grad/noted songwriter Justin Paul for a wonderful hour of entertainment.

Click here to register. And if you saw the show the first time around, you’ll receive an automatic link to watch again.


 

There are no 4th of July fireworks at Compo Beach this year.

And, the Westport Fire Department warns, there should be none anywhere in town.

The note that all fireworks are illegal in Connecticut, expect sparklers and fountains.

Also illegal: items like party poppers, snakes, smoke devices, sky lanterns and anything that emits a flame. Possessing or exploding illegal devices could result in a fine or jail.

Note too: Extremely dry conditions make it easy for fireworks, sparklers and fountains to cause brush fires.


And finally … as other states find themselves in the same situation Connecticut was in 2 months ago, we here are thinking of our friends around the nation.

Persona Interview: Police Chief Foti Koskinas

What 4 Minneapolis police officers did to George Floyd was “horrifying and embarrasing.”

97% of what the Westport police do is “serve.” Only about 3% is “protect.”

And even though he is white, when Foti Koskinas came to the US as a 7th grader from Greece — speaking not a word of English — he felt like a minority.

He made those remarks yesterday, in an interview with Rob Simmelkjaer. They’re significant because Koskinas is now Westport’s chief of police.

The wide-ranging interview includes topics like why, at a Jesup Green rally, Koskinas apologized to Floyd’s family (he felt the Minnesota police had dishonored the uniform and badge Koskinas is so proud of), and current calls to de-fund police departments (he talks about the effects of government cuts to mental health services, which force the police to now do more than ever).

The interview was done in partnership with Westport Lifestylemagazine, which will post excerpts from this and other interviews with Westporters about recent protests.

The interview is available on the Persona app — and on YouTube. Click below for the full discussion.

Pics Of The Day #1145

It was quite a day in Westport. It ended like this …

(Photo/Patricia McMahon)

… following an afternoon like this:

(Photo/JC Martin)

(Photo/JC Martin)

(Photo/JC Martin)

(Photo/JC Martin)

(Photo/JC Martin)

Police Chief Foti Koskinas …

… and a very different view (Photo/Lauri Weiser)

Peaceful Protesters Throng Westport

One of Westport’s largest political protests since the Vietnam War drew a crowd of about 1,500 to downtown Westport this afternoon.

Organized by young people — and overwhelmingly young, but with families and at least one 80-year-old woman — the event was loud, enthusiastic, and peaceful.

A number of attendees were from Westport. Others came from surrounding towns and cities, including Norwalk, Bridgeport and Stamford. Many carried homemade signs.

Ten days after the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, the crowd chanted “I can’t breathe,” “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace.”

Floyd’s death — and similar actions around the country — was the catalyst. But placards invoked other black people killed in the country, and an array of injustices.

(Photo/Jennifer Meerow Berkiner)

Bobbi Brown — the youngest member of Bridgeport’s Board of Education — set the tone as the event began, on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. The symbolism was apt: That’s the site of some of the most memorable political protests in Westport. And this afternoon’s demonstration was, in part, a bridge between a wealthy white suburb, and its more socioeconomically and demographically diverse neighbors.

Brown spoke passionately about the need for involvement, education and activism. She was joined by several other young black leaders.

But she also handed the megaphone to a variety of speakers. A young autistic white man spoke of his marginalization. A young white woman in a wheelchair cried as she talked about supporting her black friend.

Westporter Mary-Lou Weisman said, “I’m in my 80s. My generation failed you. We have hope you can do what we didn’t do.”

Mary-Lou Weisman

Holding the hand of a 7-year-old white girl, Brown noted, “It’s up to us to make the world better and safer for her, and everyone.”

The crowd — growing bigger by the minute — then marched the short distance from the bridge to police headquarters.

Chief Foti Koskinas told the crowd, “You are making sense. You are making a difference. We are listening.”

More speakers took the megaphone by the station house. Everyone took a knee.

A half-white, half-Filipino college student said, “We were born into an enormous amount of privilege. We can walk around freely. But Westport cannot ignore injustice. We need to use our privilege to do better.”

The group then massed back on the bridge. The speakers, chants, pleas for justice and promises to act continued.

“Are you fired up?” one speaker asked the crowd.

“Yes!” they roared back. “Fired up!”

Police Chief Foti Koskinas promised to keep this in police headquarters.

State Senator Will Haskell was in the crowd, handing out masks.

(Photo/Sophie Mulhern)

(All photos/Dan Woog unless otherwise noted)

Unsung Hero #148

On Sunday, Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas delivered a brief but passionate speech.

Addressing a few hundred people on Jesup Green — a local response to the murder, a few days earlier, of George Floyd  — Koskinas read a statement condemning the Minneapolis police officers.

Then he went further. He apologized personally to the Floyd family, for the way their loved one was treated by police.

It was a defining moment, and drew sustained applause. But many in the crowd were not surprised. They were Westporters. They know their chief is honest, straightforward, a man of integrity and conscience.

The crowd the next day was less familiar with Koskinas.

Unlike Sunday’s protest, Monday’s took the Westport Police by surprise. But — led by Koskinas — they were ready. They acted professionally, providing an escort across the Post Road bridge, and watching quietly as several dozen massed in front of the police station.

Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas helps the group cross Jesup Road.

Then — surrounded by the crowd — Koskinas spoke.

He talked of his personal disappointment in his law enforcement colleagues in Minnesota. “I marched with you,” the chief said. “This was not a publicity stunt.”

Some people jeered.

“I’m a first-generation immigrant. I came here not knowing a word of English,” Koskinas — who came to Long Lots School in 7th grade from Greece — said. “I was a minority.”

Chief Foti Koskinas with protesters, on Monday. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

The chief said he was devastated “by what happened in Minneapolis — by that officer, and 3 others who did not act.”

Koskinas — who at one time wanted to be a lawyer, but turned to law enforcement after taking a criminology course in college — added that he is even more devastated when the public is afraid of the police.

Someone interrupted him again. He continued, talking about systemic issues in American society. Koskinas cited our health system too. “Black people don’t get the same type of care” as white people,” he said.

This time, no one jeered or interrupted. Instead, the entire crowd cheered.

There are many ways to lead. Chief Foti Koskinas’ does so with both words and deeds.

In a week when some police departments are under scrutiny, our chief is our Unsung Hero.

(Hat tip for video and inspiration: Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Westport Police Chief Fotios Koskinas (Photo/Dan Woog)

 

Police Chief, 1st Selectman React To Minneapolis Death

Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe issued this statement today:

We certainly can be counted among the many municipal and law enforcement leaders who were horrified and deeply disappointed by the recent tragedy in Minneapolis.

The Westport Police Department, like so many others across our country, has worked diligently to build relationships and trust within our communities; a trust which we and our national partners in law enforcement recognize must be incrementally earned and always carefully maintained. Fostering this trust among our community through a steadfast dedication to public service continues to be our top priority.

During difficult times such as these, it is important to reaffirm that the Westport Police Department remains resolutely committed to pursuing the goals of its mission statement through the fair and equitable treatment of all of those we encounter.

Marpe noted: “Westport’s commitment to fairness, equality and social justice is stronger than ever, and is reflected daily in the actions of our Police Department, as well as in all town departments and activities.”

Police Ground Drone Program

Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas said this afternoon that after careful consideration, and in collaboration with 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, the Police Department will not participate in the Draganfly drone “Flatten the Curve Pilot Program.”

The department’s recent announcement of a plan to partner participate in a test of drone technology drew public concern.

“To those who reached out directly to the police department, the selectman’s office or otherwise made public these questions or concerns, we sincerely thank you for your continued community engagement and seek to assure you that your voices have been heard,” Koskinas says.

A Draganfly drone

Marpe notes, “in our good faith effort to get ahead of the virus and potential need to manage and safely monitor crowds and social distancing in this environment, our announcement was perhaps misinterpreted, not well received, and posed many additional questions.

“We heard and respect your concerns, and are therefore stepping back and reconsidering the full impact of the technology and its use in law enforcement protocol.”

Koskinas adds, “I am always committed to bringing our community the most innovative solutions to the public safety problems that it faces. Although I see the greater potential of this technology, I will always be responsive and respectful of the concerns of our citizens in every decision that I make.

“It is a fact that the COVID-19 virus continues to spread through the global community, and therefore poses a serious and credible threat to us all now and in the future. In our steadfast commitment to public service, we remain honored to have been given an opportunity to assist in a pilot program which could someday prove to be a valuable lifesaving tool. We thank Draganfly for offering the pilot program to Westport, and sincerely hope to be included in future innovations once we are convinced the program is appropriate for Westport.

“The Westport Police Department has always made public safety its primary focus while simultaneously respecting the civil liberties of our residents and visitors. We remain steadfast in honoring this commitment.”

Drones May Help Police In COVID Crisis

Can drones help Westport flatten the coronavirus curve? Westport Police want to find out.

Chief Foti Koskinas and Captain Ryan Paulsson, head of the department’s drone program, are testing new technology, through a partnership with drone company Draganfly.

It could be used in areas where large, unsafe gatherings might occur, such as Compo Beach and Longshore. If crowds are gathered, it could make an announcement asking people to practice physical distancing, or leave.

It does not use facial recognition technology, and would not be used over private property.

Draganfly says that its software can also scan body temperature, heart and respiration rates, coughs and blood pressure. The Canadian company says the drone can detect infectious conditions from 190 feet.

Koskinas notes that such data — if it is reliable — would probably be used by health officials, not the police.

A Draganfly drone

The department has been using drones for several years already. Purposes include missing persons, motor vehicle accidents, and assisting the Fire Department.

New Parking Spots Ease Railroad Station Crunch

It’s easy to commute on auto-pilot. But over the past few months, alert commuters have noticed activity at the west end of the Greens Farms railroad station.

Workers cleared brush, and removed old equipment. “06880” reader Scott Smith figured they were creating a staging area for the forthcoming replacement of the Beachside Avenue bridge.

But now there are new, striped spaces. The addition to the lot looks permanent.

New parking spaces at the Greens Farms railroad station.

It is.

Police chief Foti Koskinas — whose department oversees railroad parking operations and facilities — says that while part of that area will indeed be staging. the town has added 54 new parking spots there. Twenty-four are for permit holders; 30 are for daily parkers.

Koskinas says the town took advantage of the upcoming bridge work to add to their long-term lease with the state.

The new parking spaces will be available later this coming week. For safety reasons, the Police Department is waiting until permanent lights are installed.

Another angle showing the new spots. This view is looking east. (Photos/Scott Smith)

Greens Farms is not the only rail station in town with added parking. Koskinas says that 17 new permit-only spots have been added on Franklin Street, near Lot 7 (the one just north of the I-95 overpass) and Lot 3 (the big lot on Ferry Lane, south of the tracks).

Feedback from commuters has been great, Koskinas says. And that’s just from those who were alert enough to notice them.

(Click here for a map of the all parking lots at the Saugatuck train station.)

Westport Cops Go Green — Add Tesla To The Fleet

Savvy drivers know what our police cars look like.

They look like cop cars everywhere.

But this is Westport. The next time you’re pulled over, it may be by a … Tesla.

The newest addition to the Police Department fleet is a fully electric 2020 Tesla Model 3. The 310 mile-range electric vehicle has already been delivered. It’s being outfitted now with all the necessary equipment: emergency lights, siren, computer, weapon rack, and tires capable of speeds over 100 miles an hour.

It’s expected to hit the mean streets of Westport by the end of January.

No, this is not a speed trap by the Minute Man Monument. Although it might be.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas says he “believes in being green.” But his main reason for choosing a Tesla was superior performance, crash ratings, and collision avoidance technology.

Officers will pass on the autopilot feature.

While the purchase price of $52,290 is higher than the $37,000 the department normally spends adding another Ford Explorer, Koskinas expects to more than make up for that in fuel and maintenance savings.

Just in the first 3 years, an internal combustion engine squad car requires about $11,000 in oil changes, oil filters, tuneups and brakes.

Teslas require no annual maintenance. Brakes last 70,000 miles or more, thanks to a motor system that slows the car while simultaneously recharging the battery.

A new look for the Westport Police Department fleet.

Savings on gas are significant too. The Department of Energy’s fuel economy calculator shows the Police Department’s cost per mile will be $0.040. The fuel cost for a Ford Explorer is $0.127 per mile — saving $13,770 in the first 3 years.

Charging the battery is not an issue. The vehicle is expected to be used 200 to 220 miles a day. The police already have a gas pump on their property. They’ll add a Level 2 electric vehicle charger, which will take just a few hours overnight.

The cop car will join the 431 electric vehicles already owned by Westporters. 250 are Teslas. That puts us #1 in the state in both categories (per capita).

EV Club president Bruce Becker believes Westport is the first police department on the East Coast with a Tesla.

FUN FACTS:

  • The Model 3 has an extra trunk in the front of the vehicle where an internal combustion engine would usually be. Officers can use it to store emergency equipment that must be kept separate from cargo in the rear trunk.
  • Every Tesla comes straight from the factory with features like front, side and rear-view cameras that a police department would typically install at extra cost. They can also be used in “sentry mode” to monitor the vehicle and vicinity when it’s parked.
  • The Model 3 has a top speed of 162 mph — faster than all other vehicles in the current fleet.
  • Police cars spend lots of time idling. An internal combustion engine must run to power the lights and keep online computers running while not draining the battery. The Tesla will eliminate those tailpipe emissions.
  • This is not the first EV for Westport’s Police Department. In 2007, a Toyota Prius replaced a car that burned 7 to 9 gallons of gas every day. The current Prius is a plug-in hybrid, but operates almost exclusively in electric-only mode for its daily driving needs.

The Police plan an open house in the spring, for the public to see the new car up close.

Though you can see it in action starting next month, if — suspecting a Ford Explorer — you get pulled over by the Tesla instead.