Q&A: Fiore recounts chief issues as Westport's top cop
Updated 5:23 pm, Friday, August 19, 2011
Alfred Fiore, who retired last week as Westport police chief, will soon be catching up on things he's been too busy to enjoy, such as fishing and golfing a few days a week. But he also has more pressing matters to attend to, such as purchasing a car. The 33-year police veteran has had use of a town police vehicle since 1993, the year he was put in charge of the detective bureau and was required to be on call at all times.
Driving a borrowed Ford Mustang on Wednesday, Fiore has yet to decide what kind of car to buy, but he does know one thing. His new ride won't be a Crown Victoria, the large cars typically converted to patrol vehicles.
Times may have been simpler when Fiore joined the Westport police force on July 10, 1978, but the town is actually a quieter place now than it was in the late 1970s and early '80s. There are fewer bars and restaurants in town nowadays, and they close earlier than 30-plus years ago. Bars at one time were allowed to stay open until 2 and 3 a.m. depending on the day, and "Westport's Finest" were often busy with trouble-makers until 5 or 6 a.m., responding to incidents that erupted between bar patrons at the local diner after watering holes had closed.
When Fiore was a 20-something-year-old rookie officer, people had stronger ties to the community, lived here longer and police got to know the town better.
"These days, people tend to move here, stay for several years and then move into another community," said Fiore. "Back then, you saw the same faces for many years."
When Fiore joined the Westport Police Department, it had been only nine years since man landed on the moon. He officially retired as chief only a few weeks after the space shuttle program came to a close.
Fiore joined the Police Department on the same day future Fire Chief Christopher Ackley, who also recently retired, was sworn in as a firefighter. Fiore had initially retired a year ago, but signed a contract to be rehired to stay on as chief in the aftermath of an exodus of upper management at the department. Town officials said the deal -- also offered to Ackley -- allowed them to maintain their pensions without absorbing higher costs for medical coverage, while the town saved money on a lower salary.
"Many of the new supervisors (lieutenants and captains) were young, and I just wanted to stay on to make sure they gained the experience needed and I think they're there now," Fiore said.
But now that Fiore has retired for good, he looks forward to a less demanding future.
The following Westport News interview with Fiore took place earlier this week.
Q: Chief, congratulations on your retirement. While you officially resigned last Friday, you've agreed to stay on in a consultant capacity until Sept. 2. When that date comes your world will change. Is it hard to imagine your life without the Police Department?
A: I am officially leaving on Sept. 2, 2011 and I am quite sure my life will change dramatically. I started on the Police Department at age 22, over 33 years ago, I have worked there most of my adult life and the majority of my life. I'm sure things will be different, but it is time for me to look to new challenges in life. The time has come to move on.
Q: Do you now aspire to work in the private sector. Can you give us some indication of where you might be headed? Are there any job offers already on the table?
A: I am looking to move to the private sector for new opportunities. I have a couple of things that I have been looking at. Like all police officers we know this day will come and we think about life after the Police Department. I'm there now. Right now I want to take a little time to do some of the things that I haven't been able to do over the past 33 years. Since 1993 I've been in various positions in the Police Department that required me to be on call 24/7. Now I don't have to worry about the phone calls in the middle of the night.
Q: After more than three decades with the Westport police, you've seen and done it all. Can you tell us what some of your more memorable cases were?
A: I've had so many memorable cases over the years. I spent a good deal of my career in the detective bureau, and this gave me the opportunity to investigate many different crimes in-depth. I've worked on all types of cases, from larcenies, burglaries, robberies, sexual assaults and homicides to name a few. While many of them stand out in my mind the most memorable are when I was able to bring closure to the victims. No matter how major or minor the crime, the most important case in the world is the one to the victim. If I can help him or her then I have done my job.
Q: Among all the serious police work, there must have been some lighter moments. Are there any memorable encounters that stand out in your mind? What incident or incidents bring the biggest smile to your face?
A: I've enjoyed countless good times with the many men and women that I have worked with over the years. I've laughed with them and at times cried with them.
On a lighter side one incident does stand out. There aren't too many people that know the story but it was a snowy winter day, I was a young patrolman and I was sent on an alarm call. The caretaker for the property met me at the house and asked that I check the interior even though there were no signs of forced entry. I walked through the house with him and when we got to the top floor, basically an attic, I saw something out of the ordinary, it was a person in a dark corner standing perfectly still. I immediately drew my revolver and told the person not to move, they complied and the caretaker ran off like a jack rabbit. I began to bark out orders and the person did not comply, I was a little surprised and moved closer, still guarding against an attack. When I got up close I realized it was a sculpture complete with clothing! I later found out that others had made the same mistake. While embarrassed, I had a good laugh at myself and shared it with my colleagues.
Life is too short not to be able to laugh at yourself.
Q: What's different about policing in 2011 compared to the when you joined the department in 1978?
A: Policing has both changed and stayed the same from 1978 to present. While laws and technology have changed we still provide much the same services to the public. Good old police work usually wins out to solve a case. Back in 1978 we had no cell phones, fax machines, personal computers, the Internet and not even a decent pager back in those days. Today the technology is so advanced it helps the present-day officer do their job on a whole new level.
Q: How young were you when you knew you wanted to be a police officer? Was it a boyhood dream of a young child in the 1960s, or something you didn't decide on until college?
A: I was in high school when I decided to go into police work. I was playing football at Shelton High and two of my coaches, Coach Ken Nappi and Coach Bob White, were both police officers. I talked with them for countless hours about their jobs and they encouraged me to get into this line of work. Outside my parents, my coaches probably had the biggest influence on my life. I still see them both from time to time.
Q: You became police chief in 2004. What were your goals when you began your tenure as chief and do you feel, seven years later, you've met those goals?
A: I feel that I have accomplished most all of my goals for the department over my tenure. I feel that my two biggest accomplishments are to have given the dedicated and wonderful men and women of the Westport Police Department the tools and resources that they need to do their job safely and effectively. The other is that we have brought new people along into supervisory and management positions. There is no shortage of anyone to fill my seat; the department will be in good hands for many years to come.
Q: You were not only Westport's chief of police, but you are also a longtime resident of the town. What do you love most about this town? What made you move here?
A: I've lived in Westport for over 20 years. The thing I love most about it are the people. I have made so many good friends, both police officers and members of the community over the past 33 years. I feel truly blessed.
Q: Following retirement, will you continue living in town, or do you have plans to move elsewhere?
A: I intend to stay in Westport for many years to come. This is without question my home.
Q: What are you going to miss most about your job?
A: The thing I will miss the most are the wonderful, dedicated people that I have worked with at the Police Department over the years. They have worked so hard and done all the heavy lifting. Their hard work made our department shine. I will never be able to thank them enough. I also will miss the many town employees and boards I've worked with. I'm not too upset because I know I'll continue to see most all of them.
Q: When you initially retired in June 2010, you were re-hired a month later to stay on for two more years. However, you are going off into the sunset after only one year. How come?
A: My time has come and I know that I've had a fabulous opportunity over the years. If 33 years ago you told me I'd retire as chief I would have laughed out loud, but this is a great country we live in, the best in the world and we all have great opportunities thanks to the many men and women in our armed forces that have defended that right for us. To all the men and women in public safety as well as the armed forces I wish you all God Speed.