Sunday, June 01, 2014
By James Lomuscio
Lt. Jeremiah Shannon, who marked 40 years on the Westport Police Department April 4, described today as emotional rollercoaster. It was his last day on the force.
Just before the 3 p.m. end of his last shift, the normally strictly all-business main police radio frequency was filled with tributes from patrol officers wishing their shift commander good luck in his retirement. “You’re the best, Jerry,” said one, echoing the feelings of many.
“A lot of people that I’ve worked with over the years came in to say goodbye,” Shannon said later from his Trumbull home. “When you think about it, we spend more time working here than with our families, so you get pretty close to these people, and it was emotional.”
Shannon, 62, noted that Chief Dale Call’s research “as far as he could go” showed that no other officer had stayed as long. Former Police Chief William Chiarenzelli came close, he said, with 38 years.
“Everybody asks me how could I have stayed that long, but I enjoyed my job; I liked it,” said Shannon. “When you think about it, 95 percent of our job is just helping people.”
A native of Bridgeport who lives with his wife Julie, Shannon had originally planned on becoming a teacher, studying education courses at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain and Norwalk Community College, before he turned his sights toward law enforcement.
The son of a Bridgeport firefighter, Shannon said he felt drawn to the role of a first responder and enrolled in the police academy. When he graduated in 1974, Shannon was hired in Westport by the late Chief William Stefan.
“One of my favorites was Bill Stefan because he hired me,” said Shannon.
Over the years he has served under other chiefs: Ronald Malone, Chiarenzelli, Al Fiore, and current Chief Call.
Another favorite colleague, Shannon said, was the late Lt. George Call, father of the current chief.
“The other one person who had a large influence on me was Inspector Edwin Audley, who also ran the EMS for many years,” Shannon recalled. “He was just one of those people you respected.”
In addition to chiefs, Shannon’s tenure has also been marked by a changing roster of first selectmen: Jackie Heneage, William Seiden, Martha Hauhuth, Douglas Wood, Joe Arcudi, Diane Farrell, Gordon Joseloff and current First Selectman Jim Marpe.
Starting out as a patrol officer, Shannon later ran the department’s marine division for six years, was a desk officer for eight, ran the records department and worked as a patrol sergeant before being promoted to lieutenant five years ago. He also served for a time as the department’s press spokesman.
“There are a lot of memories, but the biggest thing for me is the change I’ve seen in the town, the whole downtown area,” he said.
He described the town during the 1970s and early 1980s as a hotbed of nightlife traffic as bars that were open until 3 a.m. when other towns closed at 2 a.m.
“In the late ‘80s that changed; they changed the law because there were so many bad accidents,” he said.
The nature and physical look of the department has changed, too, most notably the revamped Police Headquarters that opened in 1988. It is a stark contrast to the time worn one he said resembled the dilapidated station depicted on the old police television sitcom “Barney Miller.”
Shannon noted that when he started out, police drove Dodge Coronets, later shifting to the ubiquitous Crown Victorias. In Westport that changed in the past few years to officers driving Dodge Chargers, Ford SUVs and Chevy Impalas.
The nature of crimes has also changed. Decades earlier car theft was the predominant crime in Fairfield County, “and we’d get the hot sheet,” he said. Computerized, anti-theft controls changed that.
“Now it’s minuscule,” he said.
Another crime prevalent in the 1970s and 1980s that has since faded in the theft of car radios.
Conversely, shoplifting was not a problem years ago, Shannon said. It grew as the downtown lost its mom & pop shops for high-end chain stores where the employees do not have the same, long standing connection with their customers.
And while computers have aided police work, they have also opened new doors to criminals with identity theft and other high-tech crimes, he said.
As he heads into retirement today, Shannon said he plans to spend his time fishing Connecticut streams and rivers and working on his classic car, a 1969 Chevelle Super Sport.
He also plans on visiting his daughter Heather and two grandchildren who live in Montana. His daughter Erica lives locally and works at Melissa & Doug in Wilton. His son Jeremiah IV died from an undetected heart problem at age 30.
Looking at the town he has served for four decades and how it has changed, Shannon said he leaves it with only good feelings.
“I’ve really met a lot of nice people in town over the years, and there are a lot of people in Westport who appreciate what we do, and that makes it rewarding,” he said.
Posted 06/01/14 at 02:09 AM Permalink
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A job well done that speaks admirably of our entire Police Department
W/ great respect, I wish you the best in your retirement LT! You’re the best :)
Jerry, good luck to you and your wife. Try to stay out of her hair as you move into retirement.
Remember a lot of laughs working with you. Can’t believe you stuck it out for 40 years. WOW!!
Anyway Good Luck to You
You’ve served the Town of Westport faithfully and as a Good Cop! CONGRATULATIONS! I hope you and Julie enjoy retirement.
Sandy Collum Sandmeyer
Retired Officer Walt Collum’s daughter