Want to help diversify hiring, oversee investigations of civilian complaints, and work on other initiatives with Westport’s Police, Fire and EMS Departments?
The Representative Town Meeting (RTM) Public Protection Committee seeks 2 candidates to fill spots on our Civilian Review Panel.
The CRP includes 5 civilian members: the 2nd and 3rd selectwomen; one member of TEAM Westport, and 2 residents appointed by the RTM.
Specifically, the Civilian Review Panel handles:
Hiring Oversight: Participate in the interview process of new hires and lateral transfer applicants, offering feedback on the selection of candidates.
Complaint Review: Review and provide feedback on civilian complaints regarding Police, Fire and EMS.
Transparency & Accountability Improvements: Advise departments on policies and procedures to improve transparency and accountability.
Meetings: Hold special meetings as needed.
Training: Receive training from the Police, Fire and EMS Departments, to fully understand policies, procedures, general orders, internal affairs, and legal issues.
Reporting from Departments: The Departments will provide an annual report of all disciplinary complaints received, their status and resolution.
Applicants must be registered voters in Westport. No member of the CRP can be an employee, or family member of an employee, of the Police, Fire and EMS Departments.
If interested, email a resume and letter of interest to email@example.com; by mail: Westport Town Clerk, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880. 203-341-1110. Indicate how your experience would qualify you for consideration as a panel member. The deadline is February 7.
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.
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.”
Westport’s police force, fire department and EMTs provide high service with “utmost professionalism, transparency and accountability,” town officials say.
However, today’s climate “demands a reassessment of goals, an even higher degree of commitment, and a clear way to incorporate and engage” the public.
So today, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe announced a new Civilian Review Panel. Members will work closely with the Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services Departments to “assist in the hiring process of new employees, and review and provide feedback in the civilian complaint process.”
Marpe appointed Selectwomen Jennifer Tooker and Melissa Kane, along with TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey, to the CRP.
Though the departments heads retain responsibility for hiring and disciplinary measures, the CRP will work collaboratively and offer feedback.
Foti Koskinas says that when he became Police Chief, his goal was
to continue to build on the foundation of public trust carefully fostered between this department and our residents. Now, at a time when police departments across the country are looking introspectively at ways to better serve our communities, I believe that this is an important step in continuing to maintain complete transparency, in preserving public trust and in reassuring our residents that effective policing is truly a collaborative effort.
Fire Chief Rob Yost adds:
The Westport Fire Department continues to strive to diversify in its hiring of recruit firefighters and, to that end, welcomes the assistance from the CRP. I would also welcome their assistance with any questions of conduct or complaints of fire personnel to insure the continued high level of public trust and support of the Fire Department
Last month, it was “the party.” This week, the short-lived “pandemic drone.”
After 2 turns in the national media glare, the 3rd time’s the charm.
Today, Vanity Fair turns its spotlight on the men and women who keep Westport going in a pandemic..
Stephen Wilkes is a photographer and National Geographic Explorer. He’s documented endangered species and habitats, rising seas, New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Ellis Island in decay and more.
He’s also a Westporter.
After hearing about a young Maryland woman infected by COVID-19 who was so devoted to working at a store that it killed her, he set out to photograph essential workers here.
He said “so many great, small mom-and-pop shops are making sure that everybody is okay right now. Without them, I don’t know what we’d do.”
Wilkes’ story includes photos of Gold’s Delicatessen, Carvel and Fleishers Craft Butchery, as well as EMS headquarters and a Metro-North train.
His photos — like the one below, of the Gold’s owners and staff, masked yet still offering curbside pickup behind yellow caution tape (the caption notes that owners Jim and Nancy Eckl celebrated their 37th anniversary “serving their devoted customers”) — are powerful.
And — after all the chatter about a party and a drone — the perfect way to start the weekend.
(Photo/Stephen Wilkes for Vanity Fair)
(For more photos, and the text, click here. Hat tip: Kerry Long)
If you are anyone who, over the past couple of weeks, has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, you are an Unsung Hero.
Man and woman the Westport Health District — performing coronavirus tests, administering aid, answering questions, soothing nerves
Serve in emergency operations with the police, fire, EMS departments — or anyone else in government called on to plan, execute, render assistance or in any other way help the town
Work in a medical practice, helping some patients who may have been infected and many more with their usual ailments, knowing all the while you had more contact with, and less protection from, sick people than anyone else
Are teaching students online, while at the same time soothing nerves, offering non-school advice, and ensuring continuity of education despite having never done so before
Are a school custodian or maintenance worker elsewhere who put on a mask and gloves, and spent days deep cleaning every square inch you could find, and did it well, despite your very real fears and anxieties
Own a business, and decided (or had to) to shut down, for the good of the community, and despite all your fears, still worry more about your employees and customers
Work in a store or market overrun by panicked customers; despite your low pay and own fears you stocked shelves, worked registers, answered questions, and did it all with grace and courtesy
Ditto all those restaurant workers who are adapting to a rapidly changing environment, preparing and serving food while observing new rules and regulations, and doing it with enormous care and concern
Reach out through your religious institution or civic organizaiton– even though its doors are closed and meetings canceled — to someone in need
Temple Israel is one of the many religious institutions now conducting services, classes and programs virtually.
Are suddenly thrust into the role of teacher, in addition to the disruption of having to work your own job remotely, or worry about what was going on at the office because you had to be home
Calm a child’s nerves, bring food to an elderly neighbor, or help a stranger figure out what to do now that the library, Senior Center, YMCA, Town Hall — and every other gathering place — is closed
Or are doing anything else to help someone else during these unprecedented days.
Thank you for helping make this town a “community.”
We’ll need you — and everyone else — to keep doing it for a while.
No one knows what’s ahead. But with all these Heroes in our midst, we’ll get through all this.
There’s no other choice.
(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know!)
Last night, Nicole Straight sat home feeling anxious.
Her daughter — suddenly home from college — was working a volunteer shift at EMS.
Food Rescue US — the app that uses volunteer drivers to move food that would otherwise be thrown away by restaurants to shelters, kitchens and pantries, and which Nicole runs locally — had gotten slammed. Longtime generous donors were suddenly shutting down.
As she chatted with a friend — an ER nurse at Norwalk Hospital — Nicole had an idea. What if she could get meals from a local restaurant, and bring them to first responders?
She called Bill Taibe — owner of The Whelk, Jesup Hall and Kawa Ni, who had just announced an end to in-house dining. He was happy to help.
Nicole told him to make whatever he wanted, and pack it individually. She’d bring it to Westport EMS.
Bill calculated the cost at $15 a meal. Nicole posted that information on Facebook. She hoped to get enough donations so she would not have to cover 50 meals — $750 — herself.
Since last night, almost $6,000 has poured in.
Old Post Tavern in Fairfield asked if they could help. An ICU nurse from Norwalk Hospital said her crew would love a meal.
Nicole’s daughter contacted the crew chief from Norwalk EMS. Tomorrow, they and the ICU unit will get 70 meals, courtesy of Old Post Tavern.
Nicole is also setting up meals for Trumbull EMS, Bridgeport Hospital’s ER and ICU, and Bridgeport’s Harding High School Adversity to Prosperity program, which keeps at-risk youth off the streets and involved in sports.
She is looking for first responders who’d like a meal, and restaurants who would like to help (and be paid, of course).
Meanwhile, Nicole is setting up a GoFundMe page, so other communities can also support both restaurants and first responders.
Until then, people can Venmo @nicole-straight. She’ll buy meals from local restaurants — and bring them to first responders around Fairfield County — as long as she can.
Crew chief Rob Pocius accepts a special delivery at Westport EMS.
Posted onAugust 27, 2017|Comments Off on 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..
Comments Off on Summer Soiree At Pearl To Benefit 1st Responders
It’s Westport’s 2nd favorite sport, after tearing down perfectly good homes: Bashing our home town. (See? I can’t resist, even in a perfectly good introduction to this story.)
But, of course, there is much — very much — to love about this place. Alert “06880” reader (and longtime Westporter) Jayne Mauborgne sent this along. She wrote it 10 years ago. A real estate agency reprinted it for potential buyers. It’s as relevant today as it was, way back at the dawn of the 21st century. Jayne said:
When I was in my late teens I traveled with my father, who was in sales. He called on a clothing store, on Main Street.
Part of the pleasure of traveling with him was lunch. This day was no different. We ate at a Chinese restaurant on Main Street, then took a walk in the back by the water. I remarked to my dad, “when I grow up I hope I can live in a house in Westport.” It was love at first sight.
When Jayne Mauborgne first visited Westport, the Saugatuck River lapped up against the back of Main Street stores.
Many years later the dream became a reality. My husband and I moved with our 2 little daughters to a lovely house in the town of my dreams.
That was 54 years ago, but the thrill of Westport never wears thin. My girls attended public schools here, getting attention one can only dream about. Teachers were our neighbors and friends, and the caring was overwhelming.
I didn’t work when my children were young. I enjoyed the PTA, made lasting friendships, played tennis, my husband golfed at Longshore, we enjoyed the beach and 4th of July, Staples Players, wonderful restaurants, Memorial Day parades, a first-class library (even before the new building) – too many things to mention.
Nothing beats a Memorial Day parade in Westport.
Life has changed. The girls are professional women. For the last 35 years I have owned my own business. I worked hard. But at the end of each day, just walking at the beach, watching a sunset at Compo or walking at Winslow, my thoughts stray to the wonder of this town. To the familiar faces in the supermarket. The friends and acquaintances I run into in a restaurant or just walking on Main Street. How lucky I am.
The greatest pleasure for me is Winslow Park. What forward-thinking people we have had at the helm of this town, to put 22 of the most valuable acres aside for walking, enjoying or doing nothing at all (which is a lost art in this town). How beautiful to watch the sun go down, see the dogs playing, see their owners having a few relaxed moments from their busy days, moms with carriages, joggers, kids on sleds in winter.
To have such a beach 1 mile from my house is unbelievable. An Olympic pool at Longshore, sailing, tennis courts galore, golf: what doesn’t this town have?
Everyone loves Longshore.
I have had occasion to call the police a few times over the years. I don’t think I have even hung up the phone when they appeared at the door. The same holds true for EMS. The dedication of the people who serve this town voluntarily. Hats off to all of you who give tirelessly of your time and energy — especially as everyone here has a point of view and wants to be heard, even if it is midnight. And show me another town where you get to meet, eat and chat with the top executives.
Yes, I knew this was the right place for me. So I just want to say “thank you Westport.” You have given me a really nice life, and if I am lucky I hope for many more years of pleasure.
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