Tag Archives: Westport Police Department

Westporters Fight Domestic Violence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Westport’s Domestic Violence Task Force wants to make everyone aware of the issue — and what can be done about it.

The group has collected gift certificates from more than a dozen local salons. (One owner donated because her mother was a victim of abuse.) Haircuts and colors help women in shelters start new lives. Some are preparing for job interviews. Others need to change their appearance to avoid abusers.

The salons will be thanked on Saturday, October 14, at the Westport Unitarian Church Voices Cafe. All proceeds from Pierce Pettis’ performance will be donated to the salon drive. (Click here for tickets.)

Meanwhile, this Sunday (October 1), pinwheels will be displayed on Jesup Green. There’s one for every domestic violence call the Police Department received this year.

The chilling reminder that domestic abuse happens in Westport — as it does everywhere — remains on display all month.

Next Tuesday (October 3), volunteers from our police and fire departments will join Domestic Violence Task Force members at the Westport and Greens Farms train stations. They’ll hand out informational palm cards to commuters.

And on Wednesday, October 25 (Unitarian Church, 7 p.m.), Lisa Aronson Fontes — a noted author, therapist, researcher and professor — will discuss coercive control in relationships.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month ends on October 31. Of course, the issue will not go away that day.

But in Westport, concerned citizens are doing all they can to help.

Marpe: Police, Fire Pension Contracts Now Up For Ratification

Following this morning’s post on the Westport police union’s stance on pension contract negotiations, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe issued this statement:

Both the police and firefighter union executive boards have reached agreement with the town on their pension contracts, and are presenting them to their membership for ratification.

We value all Westport employees including those in our public safety departments and are pleased that these agreements have been reached.

Ratification or rejection of those pension contracts is the next step. “06880” will report on those votes, when they are taken.

Police Union Sends SOS To Town

The Westport Police are always there for us.

But now, many officers fear, the town may not be there for them.

A member of the police union board tells “06880” that the department is in the midst of pension negotiations. He says they’re not going well.

The union member explains that when current officers joined the force, their contract called for them to pay 10% of their base salary into a pension fund. That’s among the highest in Connecticut.

In return, they were guaranteed retirement at half of their final salary with 20 years’ service — while being responsible for their own medical costs.

Pension benefits are calculated using only base salaries — no overtime.

A patrolman’s maximum salary is about $84,900. Police officers don’t receive Social Security; they stopped paying into it after a contract change many years ago.

Half of the base salary works out to roughly $42,000. But after paying 40% of medical benefits and taxes, he says, that’s hardly enough to live on here.

The current pension contract expired July 1, 2016. (A separate work contract has already been ratified.)

A number of the 64 officers on the force chafe at the town’s offer. “We work midnight shifts, weekends and holidays,” the officer says.

“We give up a lot of family time. Any traffic stop or emergency call could be our last. We can be sued civilly. Our life expectancy is less than people who are not police officers.”

Police officers never know what they’ll encounter during a traffic stop.

They’ve made some concessions in negotiations — including raising the retirement age from 49 to 52.

But talks stalled. The union’s final offer was rejected by the town.

Now they’re in arbitration. Three people — one selected by the town, one by the police union, the third neutral — will rule on one offer or the other.

The union board member says that if citizens contact their RTM members and first selectman, the town has the option to pull out of arbitration.

He notes that Westport is in “great shape” financially. The grand list has increased 15.4% since 2010.

“The great school system, parks, beaches and attractions make Westport a desirable place to live,” he says. “But they come at a price. That price is your employees. Without dedicated and hard-working employees, none of the things that make Westport unique would hold true.

“People think there’s a golden parachute. The reality is very different. We just want what we were promised.”

The union board member believes that “the fair and most logical thing the town should do is leave the current employees’ benefit alone.”

The town will change new hires’ pensions. The half-pension, half-401k hybrid “will be in Westport’s pocket going forward,” he notes.

“We took this job with the expectation we’d have certain pension benefits at retirement,” he adds. “We see this as a slap in the face to people who provide tremendous service to the town.”

He concludes, “Whenever someone in Westport needs help, they call the police. Now the Westport police need your help. Contact your RTM member, or speak directly to the first selectmen. Let them know you care.”

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..

“Where Are Your Papers?” A Westporter Reacts

Alert “06880” reader Robert Birge is a marketing professional, investor and entrepreneur. He’s lived in Westport “almost 9 years, non-contiguously.” His activities include “regular consumption of food at our fine restaurants, chasing around 4 children, and trying to drive courteously.”

Last week, his kids’ nanny told him a disturbing story. Robert explains:

Someone she identified as a police officer asked her for her “papers” while waiting at the Westport train station. It happens that she is Latina. It also happens that she is a citizen of these United States of America.

Regrettably, we likely won’t learn who perpetrated this indignity. After a thorough investigation, Westport Chief of Police Foti Koskinas and Deputy Chief Vincent Penna strongly believe that whoever harassed our nanny is not a Westport police officer.

I’m not entirely convinced. However, I believe their view is reasonable, and I respect they have a different vantage point. I can only say it’s unclear who stopped her, and that there are sound reasons to doubt it was a Westport officer.

I find the details uninteresting now. That she suffered this indignity saddens me. Our nanny is a wonderful person. She cares for our 3 young boys as if they were her own. She’s exceedingly competent and industrious, and she always wears a smile. She’s the proud mother of two UConn graduates. Our community is fortunate to count her as a member.

Immigrants, legal and likely illegal, provide significant support to our rarefied town. While our community has time to wage fiery debates over high school essays on white privilege and unearned advantages, hundreds of immigrants make their way to Westport every morning to care for our children, clean our homes, tend our lavish gardens, and help build our beautiful houses. Westport would not be Westport without them. Any view to the contrary is patently false.

I grew up in New Mexico and Colorado. I learned at a young age to treasure the contributions and culture of the Hispanic community, along with every other group that has come to this country and helped make it great.

I’m also a vocal “member” of #TheResistance. I realize not everyone in Westport shares my views, but the voting patterns and my impressions of the typical Westport resident lead me to believe I’m among predominantly like-minded people. Westport is not Maricopa County, Arizona.

Two immediate family members have spent years in the federal criminal justice system. I’m confident this incident would not pass standards for probable cause or equal treatment.

My primary question after hearing this story was: “Is it possible this has spilled over into Westport?” I’m happy to share that Chief Koskinas and Deputy Chief Penna’s actions and words answered that question for me with an unequivocal NO! I also commend them for their responsiveness to a community concern.

I’m told the investigation has not implicated one of our officers, the MTA police or the Amtrak police. That leaves the possibility that a layperson harassed our nanny. I find this possibility more disturbing. I’d rather think that one jerk had a bad day and acted poorly, especially knowing the values coming from Chief Koskinas. If it happens again, I hope the community reports it. I’m confident our police department’s leaders would pursue the culprit vigorously.

I also believe it’s important to discuss a few comments I’ve received asserting that I should have allowed the police to investigate the incident before reporting it on social media. This is a choice we’re all granted as part of our right to speak freely. I respect that others would choose differently, but I stand by my choice. I know my nanny, and I know what she told me.

She was harassed by some racist in my town. I was and remain furious. I also believe the current climate necessitates vigilance toward every incursion on our civil liberties no matter how benign. Further, where should citizens or the press draw that line? If I had recorded a video like the Rodney King incident, should I have withheld the video from the public until a fair trial had been completed? I don’t think so.

Public discourse of wrongdoing and due process under the law are different matters. For example, anyone arrested in Westport will find their name, alleged crime and full color mugshot on Facebook right away. Even if you’re later fully exonerated, the damage done to your reputation would be hard to reverse. While the media surely enjoys the US Attorney’s penchant for high profile perp walks, I feel differently about the Westport police department employing public shaming in our small town. The point is that it’s a choice we all have a right to make.

It’s important to me to close this post with an expression of gratitude toward our police. Like most things in Westport, I believe we’re fortunate when it comes to our police. I’ve always found them to be efficient, extremely present, and friendly. I believe they keep my family safe. My wife Melissa and I intend to raise our children with the same respect for officers of the law that we have, because their position deserves that respect.

Cops And Parkers

As sure as I post photos of some of the most ridiculous, self-centered, entitled parking scenes in Westport — like Monday’s jaw-dropping Trader Joe’s spectacle — readers respond with 2 comments:

  • Someone should have called the cops!
  • You’ve got their license plate right there! Send this photo to the police!

An alert “06880” reader — who asked for anonymity — decided to find out what the cops think of all this.

Deputy chief Vincent J. Penna quickly responded.

He explained that in this case, Trader Joe’s is a private lot. Though the police have some power to enforce motor vehicle laws there — like DUI, reckless operation and evading responsibility — parking enforcement is limited to fire lane and handicap space violations.

“Parking in a private lot is generally enforced by the property owner,” Penna says.

As for sending a photo: Sure, any citizen can provide a sworn statement detailing the infraction to the police. They’ll issue a ticket based on that statement.

However, if the driver pleads not guilty, then the officer — and the citizen — would both be subpoenaed to court.

Oh, yeah: The identity of the person making the complaint — and that person’s address — are public record.

“This tends to deter most people,” Penna notes.

Meanwhile, keep those photos comin’. We may not get any of these very entitled d-bags arrested.

But there’s nothing wrong with a little public shame.

Monday’s infamous Trader Joe’s photo. The license plate is clearly visible.

Rash Of Stolen Vehicles Follows Rash Of People Leaving Keys In Vehicles

  • 12/02/16: “He also stated his daughter left the vehicle unlocked with the key in the console.”
  • 12/14/16: “The vehicle had been parked on the left side of the driveway with no other vehicles in front of it or behind it. The vehicle was unlocked and the keys were left either on the driver-side floor or the middle console.”
  • 12/25/16: “At approximately 0730 hours, the victim reported someone just attempted to steal his vehicle after he left it running in driveway.”
  • 12/30/16: “Victim stated he always leaves his keys in the vehicle and always leaves the vehicle unlocked.”
  • 12/30/16: “The key fob for the vehicle was also in the center console and the vehicle was unlocked.”
  • 01/06/17: “Responded on a report of a stolen car.  Upon arrival I spoke with the owner who stated that he parked the car around 1845 hours on 1/5/17.  The vehicle was unlocked and the keys were inside.”
  • 01/09/17: “Victim said he went to sleep around 2300 hours and did not hear anything suspicious during the night. Victim said his key was left in his center console and his vehicle must have been unlocked.”
  • 01/09/17: “Doors were unlocked and the key was left in the vehicle.”

stolen-carYou get the point?

If not, read on:

Over the past 2 months, 9 vehicles have been stolen in Westport.

Each time, the doors were unlocked, and the keys were left inside.

Westport Police have also responded recently to a number of vehicle break-ins, with thefts of items inside. In all those cases too, the doors were unlocked overnight.

The Police Department reminds Westporters: Lock your car, and bring your keys inside. Take valuables — cash, purses, wallets, electronics, etc. — out each night.

Westport PoliceThe cops add: “It is also good practice to keep outside lights on and motion lights activated. Please notify the Police Department if it appears your vehicle was entered or you observe anything suspicious in your neighborhood.”

The good news: In all recent cases, the stolen vehicles were recovered.

The bad news:  The time the police spend tracking down the car thieves could be spent in much better ways.

Like catching all those entitled drivers whose photos appear on “06880.”

Cops Collect Toys For Tots

As the holiday season roars into overdrive, we’re (happily) overwhelmed with ways to help the less fortunate. All across town, organizations do their part to bring a little joy to those who truly need it.

“06880” can’t mention all of them. But if you’re looking for one particularly worthy cause, here it is.

The Westport Police local union and Police Benevolent Association are holding their annual toy drive. Each year, they distribute thousands of gifts to children who otherwise would have none, in Fairfield County and beyond. It runs through December 16.

Collection boxes for new, unwrapped toys are set up at several locations:

  • Police headquarters, 50 Jesup Road, 24 hours a day.
  • Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • ASF Sports & Outdoors, 1560 Post Road East, store hours.
  • Whole Foods, 399 Post Road West, store hours.
  • Renato’s Jewelers, 1765 Post Road East, store hours.

In addition, police officers will be in the ASF parking lot the next 2 weekends (December 10, 11, 17, 18, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) to accept toys and cash donations.

And to personally thank you for your generosity.

Westport Police

 

Tina’s Cat

Following the sad death of Tina Wessel — the homeless woman well known by nearly every Westporter — many “06880” commenters expressed concern for her beloved cat.

Third selectman Helen Garten reports that — thanks to great work by the Westport Police Department and Animal Control — the cat was found, and is safe.

Schulhof Animal Hospital is temporarily boarding Tina’s pet.

Westport Animal Shelter Advocates is soliciting donations for the cat’s medical examination and care. President Julie Loparo writes:

WASA thanks the Westport Police Department, particularly Chief Foti Koskinas; Animal Control officer Gina Gambino; Dorrie Harris, co-founder of TAILS; the staff of the Senior Center, particularly Tom Saviano, and the staff of Schulhof Animal Hospital for working together to humanely “trap” and provide care for Tina Wessel’s cat.

Westport Animal Shelter Advocates

The cat is calmly waiting in his/her crate for an exam. It is wonderful to live in a town with the compassion to want to do right by one of its long-term residents. This joint effort ensures that Ms. Wessel’s cat won’t be left to fend for itself.

WASA, with the kind assistance of the Schulhof staff, will oversee the cat’s care. When the time comes, it will secure a home for Ms. Wessel’s friend and furry family member.

If you would like to assist WASA with this effort, please visit www.westportwasa.org and click “Donate.” Please note on the form that you are donating in memory of “Tina’s cat.”  WASA is a 501c3 organization.

Many Westporters want to do something to honor Tina’s memory. This is one way to help.

tina-wessen-cat

Tina’s cat. (Photo courtesy of Westport Police Department)

Kids Dodge Cops At Staples

Across America, tensions are high between police and the communities they serve.

In Westport, cops and teenagers squared off tonight.

It was all in good fun — and for a good cause.

Westport Youth Commission member Colin Corneck sports a "Collaborative" t-shirt.

Westport Youth Commission member Colin Corneck sports a “Police and Youth Collaborative” t-shirt.

Staples’ Teen Awareness Group, Youth Commission, PAL and Westport Police Department sponsored the 5th annual Dodge-a-Cop tournament, in the high school fieldhouse.

A few hundred kids and a few dozen cops played dodgeball against — and with — each other. There had to be at least 1 officer on each team.

Cops and kids listen to instructions, before the massive tournament began.

Cops and kids listen to instructions, before the massive tournament began.

It was a great, bonding event. The money raised — from entry fees and food sales — went to the Chris Lemone Fund, in honor of the Staples outreach counselor who died last year.

It was a night to show off Westport’s finest.

And by that I mean: everyone who was there.

Police chief Foti Koskinas is flanked by dodgeball players Det. Sgt. Sereneti Dobson and Lt. Jillian Cabara. The referee (front) is Det. Sharon Russo.

Police chief Foti Koskinas is flanked by dodgeball players Det. Sgt. Sereneti Dobson and Lt. Jillian Cabara. The referee (front) is Det. Sharon Russo.

Stephen Rowland, Reid Rizack, Spencer Daniels and Max Zimmerman get ready to rumble.

Stephen Rowland, Reid Rizack, Spencer Daniels and Max Zimmerman get ready to rumble.

Dodgeball is not just for guys and cops!

Dodgeball is not just for guys and cops!

Police officers and everyone else: Watch out for Kenny Brill!

Police officers and everyone else: Watch out for Kenny Brill!

Everyone wants to know who's in the lead.

Youth Commission and TAG members keep score.

Ready! Aim! Fire!

Ready! Aim! Fire!