Tag Archives: Westport Police Department

Sunset Drama On Sunrise

Sunrise Road was not made for 18-wheelers.

The driver of a truck filled with 43,000 pounds of refrigerated meat — bound from Minnesota to West Haven — learned that out the hard way last night at 7.

He tried to make a right turn onto Saugatuck Avenue — no easy feat even for Mini Coopers. Soon, he was hung up on a stone wall.

Alert “06880” reader Gerald F. Romano Jr. was on the scene. For the next 2 1/2 hours, he says, Westport police and firefighters did a great job. A crew from Quality Towing unloaded 10,000 pounds of meat off the truck.

That lightened the load, so the Quality guys could pull the rear wheels off the wall. No one one was injured. The driver — who said this was his first incident in 40 years — drove off.

(All photos Gerald F. Romano Jr.)

“It all ended well,” Romano says.

But just imagine if the driver had headed for the William F. Cribari Bridge.

Police Pension Draws National Attention

A pension dispute involving Westport’s Police Department has drawn national attention.

The Economic Policy Institute — a left-leaning think tank — is focusing on a dispute between the police union (AFSCME Local 2080) and the town.

Negotiations have gone to binding arbitration. A decision may come this fall.

“Why would Westport mess with a system that works?” asks economist Monique Morrissey on the EPI’s Working Economics Blog.

“The police department is tiny and the town can easily afford the benefits. In the 2015-2016 fiscal year, spending on police pensions amounted to just 1.2 percent of the town’s revenues, so even drastic benefit cuts wouldn’t noticeably affect anyone’s tax bill.

“Westport’s property tax rate is already among the lowest in the state, though taxes are high in dollar terms as would be expected for a wealthy town in a high cost of living area.”

Morrissey notes that Westport police officers do not receive Social Security, nor is overtime factored into their final pensions. She frames efforts to reduce Westport police pensions as part of “an ideological campaign” to get rid of pensions in favor of riskier 401(k)-style savings plans.

She says that kind of campaign could backfire as municipalities start to restore benefits in an effort to prevent losing experienced officers.

“The 64 members of the Westport police department, who signed on for what they thought was a career of public service that would be rewarded with a secure retirement, may still pay a price, unless the citizens of Westport realize that that the police force they have come to rely on may be torn apart by shortsighted pension ‘reforms,’” Morrissey writes.

Click here to read Morrissey’s full story.

Kudos!

Over 1,700 Westporters are still without power. Restoration continues slowly.

Wednesday’s storm — the 2nd in 5 days — took its toll on much of New York and New England.

But as we’re recovering from that double whammy, let’s realize how good we actually have it.

Our public officials and town employees really earned their pay this week. In no particular order, we owe huge thanks to:

Westport Police Department. They’ve been vigilant in responding to calls, assessing damage, helping work crews, and keeping the town safe and secure. They’re stretched thin — but every man and woman on the force responded. (NOTE to impatient citizens: Those traffic barricades are up for a reason. Click on the video from New Jersey below — but beware. It’s gruesome.)

Westport Fire Department. At the height of the storm Wednesday night, they answered literally hundreds of calls. From live wires and fallen trees to actual fires, they covered the town. They were often the first eyes on an incident, and they coordinated expertly with other town offices. On Thursday and through today, they’ve kept going. Their red trucks — and the firefighters on them — are a truly welcome sight. And they seem to be everywhere.

Public Works Department. They’re the guys who are actually out there, working all day and night. They plow the roads, remove the trees, and do all the other dirty work that enables the rest of us to carry on with our lives. It’s tough, demanding, physical work. And they haven’t had a break in days.

First Selectman Jim Marpe. He’s the man at the top. His calm, efficient yet commanding presence has inspired everyone else — at the emergency operations center, and in the field — to do their jobs. Jim believes in public service, and he makes sure every public official serves the town well.

Everyone else in emergency operations too. I don’t know everyone’s names. But quietly and effectively, they managed back-to-back storms with professionalism and care.

Superintendent of schools Colleen Palmer. She had to make difficult, irrevocable, damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t choices about closing school.  That comes with the territory. But she went above and beyond, communicating often and clearly about how and why she made those decisions. Today she threaded the needle — opening school, but not penalizing students for absences, and postponing all tests and quizzes. She “weathered” criticism with grace — and kept thousands of youngsters safe.

School maintenance staffs. They shoveled tons of heavy snow, and did all the other work, to ensure that schools could open today. They were there at the height of the storm. No one saw what they did — but today we noticed how much they did.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten other key men and women in town. If you know anyone I’ve missed, click “Comments” below.

Public Works takes care of downed trees. Police put up barricades. It takes a village to help our town weather 2 storms since last Friday. (Photo/Janette Kinnally)

PTA Thanks Cops

In a show of appreciation, the Staples High School PTA and Westport PTA Council treated the Westport Police Department to lunch today.

The card below says it all:

Unsung Heroes #37

In the aftermath of yesterday’s threatened shooting at Staples High School, there are a host of heroes.

Among them:

  • Superintendent of schools Colleen Palmer, and her central office staff
  • Staples High School administrators and counselors, who acted quickly and decisively, after receiving information about the threat from…
  • …A student who knew exactly what to do — and had the courage to do it — upon hearing of a potential threat
  • Staples teachers, paraprofessionals, support staff, cafeteria workers — you name it — who had never practiced a “shelter in place” drill, but showed calm, caring professionalism all day
  • Staples students themselves. Though worried, they listened to directions, followed them, helped each other — friends and strangers — and made a difficult day as okay as it could be
  • Westport police, who raced to Staples, worked seamlessly with educators, and helped create a sense of order, security and safety. Police also…
  • … worked with Staples’ custodial staff, to ensure that the entire sprawling building was safe

  • The school system’s transportation coordinator, and everyone at Dattco. Drivers — most of whom live out of town — came in quickly from wherever they were, and helped coordinate an orderly early dismissal
  • First selectman Jim Marpe, who worked with Palmer and Police Chief Foti Koskinas to coordinate town efforts
  • The Board of Education, who were in the loop and supportive too.

There may be others I have missed. Everyone above will probably say, “I was just doing my job.”

Of course, that’s easier said than done. All did their jobs wonderfully. They did them together, as a team — with people they’ve worked with for years, and those they’d never met.

Westport averted a tragedy yesterday. It didn’t happen by accident.

It happened because we have an amazing town.

One filled with Unsung Heroes.

 

Kids Appreciate Cops

Tuesday was Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.

If you missed it — like I did — don’t worry. This story will make up for it.

Dr. Joan and Dennis Poster are long-time police supporters, here and nationally. When the Westport couple mentioned the day to their grandsons Max, Jack and Sam Eigen, the boys decided to do something to show their own support.

Max — a junior at Staples High School — and Bedford Middle School 7th grader Sam asked their friends to write down what they appreciate most about our police. The boys put the notes in a “gratitude jar.” Yesterday morning at Town Hall, they presented it to department officials.

Max and Sam Eigen yesterday, with (from left) Deputy Chief Sam Arciola, Police Chief Foti Koskinas and Officer Nat Batlin, at Westport Town Hall.

Jack asked his Fairfield Country Day School classmates to do the same. He put those notes in another jar, and handed it to Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara and the department.

Police and kids both get plenty of bad press.

Today it’s all good.

Want To Give This Holiday Season? Here’s How!

Several alert — and generous — “06880” readers have asked how they can help others this holiday season.

Not every Westporter is well off. Last year, the Department of Human Services’ Holiday Giving Program helped over 400 residents battered by layoffs, foreclosures and other misfortunes.

Some of the most appreciated gifts are grocery and gas gift cards of any amount, as well as gift cards to local stores.

Cash donations help Human Services staffers buy last-minute gift cards for clients. Gift cards and checks (payable to “DHS Family Programs,” with “Holiday” on the memo line) can be mailed to or dropped off at Room 200, Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880.

Donors can also shop for a family’s actual gift requests. For specific requests or to learn more, contact Patty Haberstroh: hsyouth@westportct.gov; 203-341-1069.

NOTE: Clubs, schools, religious groups, book clubs and businesses can help too!


Meanwhile, Westport police officers are accepting new, unopened and unwrapped toys — plus cash donations — during their annual Holiday Toy Drive.

They take place on the weekends of December 9-10 and 16-17 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m., ASF Sports parking lot, 1560 Post Road East).

Each year, police Local Union 2080 and the Police Benevolent Association has collected thousands of toys for children who otherwise would have none.

Can’t do weekends? Collection boxes are set up now through December 17 at the police station (50 Jesup Road), Town Hall (110 Myrtle Avenue), ASF Sports (1560 Post Road East) and Renato’s Jewelers (1765 Post Road East).

Questions? Contact Sgt. Jill Ruggiero: jruggiero@westportct.gov; 203-341-6000.


And if you swing by Suited.co (44 Railroad Place) Tuesday through Saturday (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) — with a gently used overcoat, jacket or suit — owner Ryan Meserole will donate it to Save-a-Suit. The non-profit provides business attire to military veterans getting back into the workforce.

It’s a great way to give. And Ryan gives back too — with a $150 credit on any Suited.co order.


I’m sure there are many more ways to help. If you know of an organization, business or club that’s doing good work this holiday season, click “Comments” below. Spread the word — and good cheer!

Police Back New Hire; Respond To News Reports, Social Media Storm

There are 2 sides to every story.

And the side behind the initial furor — “Rogue Cop Hired in Westport” — is as interesting as the first.

Social media was atwitter over the weekend, after the New Haven Independent published a story about Daniel Conklin, a former New Haven detective set to join the Westport Police Department.

Conklin allegedly destroyed evidence on a bogus stop, harassed and arrested a man on trumped-up charges, and shoved and threatened to tow the car of a fisherman parked on a bridge.

Daniel Conklin (Photo/Christopher Peak, courtesy of New Haven Independent)

Westport delayed Conklin’s swearing-in, set for today. But the department stands strongly by the new hire.

A few moments ago, officials said:

We want to assure the public that Mr. Conklin has been properly and thoroughly vetted through an extensive background investigation process. We are confident in our decision to hire him as a Westport police officer.

The Westport Police Department is a very desirable law enforcement agency in which to work, and is able to be extremely selective with its new hires. Every officer hired, lateral or entry level, is vetted through an extremely rigorous background investigation process. This involves a physical examination, drug screen, review of the applicant’s finances, neighborhood canvass, and interviews with employers. The applicant encounters 3 levels of oral interviews with department investigators and command staff. This process also includes a polygraph examination and a psychological evaluation.

We have reviewed Detective Conklin’s personnel and training files. We have examined each internal affairs complaint individually. The federal lawsuit against Detective Conklin was unanimously dismissed by the jury. Two complaints were found to be attributed to training deficiencies on behalf of the New Haven Police Department and another resulted in a 1-day suspension. For the last 3 years of his 5 year career in New Haven, he has excelled in his profession and has not been the subject of any internal affairs or discipline investigations.

We have spoken to his family, co-workers, supervisors and a sergeant in the internal affairs department, all of whom concurred that Daniel has matured into well-rounded, competent police officer. Chief Koskinas has personally spoken to Chief Campbell of the New Haven Police Department regarding Detective Conklin and received a very favorable recommendation. Further, Chief Campbell stated, “If there was ever a sensitive investigation to be handled involving my family, or anyone, I would want him [Conklin] to investigate it.”

Because of his strong work ethic, Detective Conklin was appointed by the New Haven Chief of Police to the gang unit. In 2016, he was promoted to the rank of detective and assigned to the major crimes division of the New Haven Police Department. Both are prestigious assignments which come with incredible responsibility. Detective Conklin was highly recommended by his supervisors and the State’s Attorney’s Office due to his investigative skills and his sensitivity to victims and their families.

Over the last 3 years, 16 of 18 new police department hires have been lateral applicants joining us from other Connecticut law enforcement agencies. We have had great success from our lateral hiring process. We have hired lieutenants from the Norwalk and Orange Police Departments, sergeants from Woodbridge and Waterbury, detectives from Waterbury, West Haven, Trumbull and Orange, and officers from Monroe, Bridgeport, Trumbull, Ridgefield, Naugatuck and Torrington. Each officer brings with him or her a great deal of knowledge and experience. Detective Conklin is no different.

Once hired, every new officer faces a mandatory probationary period with the Westport Police Department. Chief Koskinas stated, “I have an obligation to make decisions that are in the best interest of our officers, the citizens and the Town of Westport. I would never recommend hiring someone that would put any of these groups at risk. We are confident that Daniel Conklin will be an asset to the police department and the Town of Westport.”

Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe added, “During the last 24 hours, I have received a significant number of phone calls and e-mails regarding the hiring of Daniel Conklin, and I appreciate the concerns that residents have raised.  After in-depth review and discussion with Police Chief Foti Koskinas, I am confident that we have fully vetted Detective Conklin’s background and that we understand the circumstances surrounding those events that took place early in his career. He will continue to be subject to review through the department’s mandatory, lengthy, and rigorous, probationary period. This time period will give his supervisors additional opportunities to further train and evaluate his performance as an officer in Westport’s outstanding Police Department.”

Westport Vehicle Break-Ins: Don’t Be A Victim!

An alert and concerned “06880” reader writes:

I learned this weekend from neighbors that there were 3 car break-ins on my street (Hunt Club Lane, near Long Lots) 2 weeks ago. A friend posted on Facebook that locked cars were broken into, and a locked car was stolen on her street.

The police told the Westport resident whose car was stolen that there is a trend in stealing Audis. If you’ve taken your car in for service to certain dealerships, car keys are being copied, addresses noted and cars being stolen.

Police advice to our neighbors was to lock cars, remove garage door openers from cars, and park them (especially Audis) in the garage. They also noted that these individuals may be armed, so be careful. Pretty scary.

Also scary that the 3 break-ins on my street, although reported to police, were not found via public search of crimes in our area. So the crime statistics seem to be under-reported.

I asked the Westport Police Department to respond. Lieutenant David Farrell got back immediately. He says:

In the past 6 months, Westport has had 18 stolen vehicles. Fifteen were recovered and processed by detectives. Six arrests have been made. Detectives are awaiting lab results on 8 other cases.

All stolen vehicles were unlocked, with the keys inside the vehicles. We urge residents to do their part, and lock their vehicles.

The nights when these vehicles were stolen, there were several motor vehicle break-ins as well. There have been 14 arrests in these cases. Many were linked to a juvenile who had also stolen a car in the area, and was caught. The police currently have active warrants and potential leads in other cases.

Press releases regarding arrests are sent out. The most recent was last week. Some arrests have even been made using DNA hits. Westport is one of the few police departments in the state collecting DNA from recovered stolen vehicles.

I could  not agree more that heightening awareness regarding this trend is necessary. That is why we have released several public service announcements advising people to lock their car doors and bring keys and fobs inside. We have put the same message on our Facebook page.

Westport is not alone in being targeted. Every surrounding town is experiencing the same crimes. We continue to partner with our neighboring towns to work on this problem.

The Westport Police Department is actively addressing this issue. We have the full support of the selectman’s office regarding additional resources when needed. Extra officers and detectives are frequently assigned to the midnight shift in an effort to not only catch the perpetrators, but hopefully deter the crime before it occurs.

We don’t want the bad guys to know our secrets. But rest assured, we are doing all we can.

Regarding the information about Audis and dealerships: Although this type of crime exists, we have not experienced it in Westport.

Nearly all of the vehicle break-ins here have been unlocked cars. The trend is to pull door handles until one is found unlocked. Then the criminal simply pushes the start button, hoping the fob was left in the car. Gone are the days of actually breaking into a vehicle and compromising the ignition.

We will continue to do our part, as we always do. We hope the public does their part: lock all doors, bring keys inside, keep outside lights on, and call 911 immediately if suspicious activity is observed.

Police Union Rejects Pension Contract

A controversial pension agreement — agreed to by the union executive board, and approved after hours of debate by the RTM — has been rejected by Westport police officers.

Under the agreement, current employees would pay 40% of the cost of their health insurance at the time of retirement. That amount would be frozen.

New hires (as of July 1, 2017) would be required to pay 40% of the cost of health insurance, and would not be frozen.

The retirement age would rise to 52, from 49.

A union representative called the margin of defeat “overwhelming.”

First selectman Jim Marpe said the town will meet with union leadership soon, to resume contract talks.

“I remain confident that we can reach an agreement which continues to provide excellent retirement benefits consistent with the fiscal challenges the Town faces today and in the future,” Marpe added.

“I know I reflect the opinion of all Westport residents when I express my appreciation for the dedication, bravery and professionalism that our police officers exhibit every day in protecting and serving our community.”