A Chat With ... Officer Ned Batlin
Updated 3:47 pm, Friday, December 2, 2016
WESTPORT — Officer Ned Batlin has spent his career working with children and students, whether he’s on the sideline or in the classroom. What has stuck with him most from his time coaching and as a police officer in Westport are the positive outcomes he has been able to help influence.
“Seeing a kid turn his life around, seeing a kid that maybe was going down the wrong path, but just needed a little structure and love in his life,” he said. “Watching them go on to college and start a family, that’s better than any wins or losses or arrests — just seeing the success stories.”
Batlin’s family moved to Westport when he was
5 . He grew up in town, attending Westport public and private schools before he spent a few years away at college, where he played football and lacrosse. Batlin returned to the area when he transferred to Fairfield University and began his high school coaching career.
Batlin spent a year as head coach of the Staples girls’ lacrosse team in the mid-1990s, when it was first founded and in need of a coach. The next year he became the boys’ lacrosse head coach and went on to lead the Wreckers to the state championship in 1999, when he was named Coach of the Year by the Connecticut High School Lacrosse Coaches Association. He worked at the school for 10 years and continued coaching at Staples after he left.
When he was 35, Batlin became a Westport police officer. He was drawn to the parts of the job similar to athletics, including structure and teamwork, and he liked the idea of a job where he would not spend his time behind a desk.
“I knew a lot of Westport officers,” he said. “You are part of a team, but you also get your own little section of town that you’re responsible for. So you’re an individual, but you’re part of something bigger.”
Batlin has 15 years on the force. The highlight for him over the decade-and-a-half of police work has been his fellow officers.
“I wasn’t a police officer until I was 35, and the men and women of this department are some of my best friends and are great, great people,” he said. “There’s a lot of similarities in the makeup of people that go into this profession, and they are wonderful people.”
On the job, Batlin said, officers have to know how to deal with many different potential scenarios. Beyond traffic stops and arrests, the job requires, for example, knowing how to help Alzheimer’s patients or best serve a teen who has suffered abuse, he said.
“Coming into this profession later in life, I really had no idea how complex this job is,” Batlin said. “You see TV — in 15 years I’ve never gotten to hang onto the bottom of a helicopter while the bad guy tries to get away. We do a lot of social work. We deal with a lot of emotionally distressed people, mentally distressed people. You name it, and you’re going to see it if you spend enough time on the road.”
In the department, Batlin serves as the DARE officer, running the town’s program to educate children on decision-making, responsibility and drug and violence-free living. He leads the 12-week course with fifth-graders in elementary schools.
“It’s absolutely the greatest job in the town of Westport,” Batlin said.
He is planning a Westport youth Citizens’ Police Academy, to meet every Wednesday in March. Modeled after the adult academy that the department reinstated this fall, the program will be tailored to its younger participants, with more emphasis on youth and the law, the K-9 unit and interactive elements. The five-week course will be open to high school students.
In his work with students, Batlin said his best advice to the kids is to “be confident and don’t let anybody ever talk you into doing anything that you’re not ready to do.”
The officer is reading DARE essays in preparation for Kings Highway Elementary and Saugatuck Elementary schools’ graduations from the course next week. He will then begin the program at two other public elementary schools.
Batlin is about as Westport as a person can get. After growing up in town, Batlin has worked in the public schools and police department for years. His wife is also from town, and the couple live in Fairfield with their son.
“I love it,” he said, of returning to Westport. “I’m actually at the stage in my life where my former players are grown up with kids that are the same age as my kid. I married a nice girl from Westport, so our social circle outside of law enforcement is made up of a lot of my former players. It’s really exciting to see these guys grown up with little kids.”
Until last January, Batlin was still coaching junior varsity boys’ lacrosse and working as the head freshman football coach at Staples. He stopped coaching when he took over as president of the Police Athletic League, which limited his time combined with his full-time work on the force and toddler son at home.
“The kids were great,” he said. “I’m not coaching anything right now, but I miss it.”