Class 1: Reporter joins Westport Citizens’ Police Academy
WESTPORT — Standing in front of an American flag, Lt. Ryan Paulsson snapped my photo for my citizens’ academy ID, kicking off my nine weeks in the Westport program.
I decided to apply to the academy last month in the hopes of getting a closer look at how officers handle specific crimes, day-to-day functions of the department and what types of incidents police deal with most in town. I began covering Westport Police a couple of months ago and reporting on the department has made me more curious about officers’ experiences.
I took my seat for the first class last Thursday night, Sept. 8, in the upstairs classroom at police headquarters, along with nearly two dozen classmates.
Deputy Chief Samuel Arciola gave the class an introduction on different police roles. He explained the department is now staffed at 63 members, compared to more than 70 when he joined.
“We’re doing more with less,” he said.
As Arciola talked through the organizational chart and responsibilities of deputy chiefs and lieutenants, a few unique elements about Westport stood out. Unlike many departments, he said, Westport Police oversee railroad security and maintenance in town. Unlike some, the department also includes emergency medical services and does vehicle maintenance in-house for police and some town vehicles. The department has some body cameras as well, purchased a couple of years ago.
Detective Commander Lt. Jillian Cabana, who is running the academy, then took over to talk about domestic violence. Police made 47 domestic violence arrests last year, she said, and those calls are among the most dangerous for officers. Because of that risk, the department usually sends two officers and a supervisor on each domestic call.
The final portion for week one was a tour through headquarters with Staff Corporal Al D’Amura, starting in the EMS department and bay. Next up was a small gym, with some equipment donated by Martha Stewart, D’Amura said. After a few more stops, we saw the detective bureau and then the holding cells, where cameras dot the walls to give officers a constant view of anyone in holding.
The last stop of the day was the sally port garage, where officers pull in, generally wait for a second officer and then bring someone they have arrested from the back of the squad car into the department and then a cell.