Thursday, March 31, 2016
By James Lomuscio
Behind Police Chief Dale Call’s desk is a photo of his late father in uniform and smiling, almost as if he’s watching over his son, proud of him making it to the top.
The late George Call rose through the ranks to Inspector, an ascent the son has chronicled in a framed collection of his dad’s badges next to his photo.
“He was the one I grew up watching,” said Call, 53, who first joined the force as a special officer in 1981, just one year after graduating from Staples High School. “Actually, I grew up in this building.”
Today, after 35 years on the force, the last four as chief, Call heads into retirement, passing the baton, or badge, to Deputy Chief Foti Koskinas, who will be sworn into by First Selectman Jim Marpe. Capt. Samuel Arciola and Capt. Vincent Penna will each be sworn in as deputy chief.
In his own stoic way, Call waxed sentimental Wednesday about the department and the town he was raised in, a town in which his father’s family roots date back to the 1700s, long before it was called Westport.
A history buff, Call pointed out that his great-great-great grandfather, Peter Oscar Lewis, had served as the town’s highway superintendent, creating half the roads that his officers now patrol.
“It’s a far different town than when I grew up here,” said Call.
He said that town of his youth had greater economic diversity. His home was in public housing on Hales Court.
“And you don’t see the generations of families you saw growing up here anymore,” he said.
Change happens, but sometimes not that much, especially when it comes to the human condition as it pertains to police work.
“I’m sitting on a box of old photographs, and in it is a letter from First Selectman King Mansfield to Police Chief John Dolan,” said Call. “It was a letter written in the mid-1930s for the Police Department to do more patrols of speeders on Wilton Road, commuters to the train station. That’s 80 years ago, and we’re still up there doing that now.
“And from the mid-1940s there’s a notice from Chief Sam Luciano reminding pedestrians on the Post Road to pay attention because drivers aren’t, and you might get killed,” he added, acknowledging there are been a couple of pedestrian fatalities on the Post Road in recent years.
Call’s personal history is inextricably tied to the department, as well as the town. After graduating from Staples in 1980, he attended Norwalk Community College for one year before joining the force in 1981 as a special police officer. In 1984 he graduated from the Police Academy and was sworn in as a full time officer by then First Selectman Bill Seiden and served under the late Chief William Stefan.
More than a decade ago, he decided to return to his studies part time, obtaining bachelors and master’s degrees in criminal justice and strategic leadership, plus a graduate certificate in criminal justice education from University of Virginia from the studies at the FBI Academy.
Having risen to the post of deputy chief, he was appointed chief in 2011 by then First Selectman Gordon Joseloff. His current salary is $142,252.
He and his wife Suzanne live in Monroe, and they have two grown children, Emily, 26 and a classical musician, and Benjamin, 21, who is pursuing a doctorate in mathematics.
On the job, Call stresses with officers that it is not the most major or dramatic cases that the public remembers, but the day-to-day, mundane jobs that are done well and with a dedication to service.
For Call, there were three major events on the force that stand out: the most painfully memorable, the most challenging and the most rewarding.
The most painful, he said, was the 1991 death of Holly Finley, 8-year-old run over by her school bus when the drawstring of her jacket was caught on the bus on Evergreen Avenue.
“You don’t want to see anybody get hurt or killed, especially a child,” said Call. “You want to see them grow up.”
He said the most challenging case was the December 2011 murder of Westport jeweler Yekutiel “Kuti” Zeevi, 65, who was shot at his Compo Shopping center jewelry business by Andrew Robert Levene, who stole six diamonds worth $300,000. Levene, 41, was a high society thief who traveled with the horsey set. He was arrested less than a month later in Barcelona, Spain, where he hanged himself in his cell.
“It was a multi-state, international investigation where we worked with local and state agencies and federal agencies,” Call said.
He said that the most rewarding thing he witnessed was his own department’s selfless response in the wake of the December 2012 Sandy Hook shootings.
“More than half of of my officers, 34 of them, volunteered their time to help out in Sandy Hook,” he said. “Not many other departments did that, and my people did that for free.”
Though he steps down as chief today, Call will remain in an advisory role until June 30. After that, he said he will spend more time with his family and his hobbies, which include antique radios, railroad memorabilia, Civil War history, old movies and Big Band music. He also plans to do online, adjunct law enforcement teaching at Northwestern University.
In the meantime, Call said he is happy to be leaving the department in the good hands of Koskinas and the deputy chiefs.
“If you look at the people coming up behind you, and you know they’re doing well, you know you did your job well,” he said.
Posted 03/31/16 at 06:00 AM Permalink
Congratulations Dale on a great career. you have offered the community and its residents so much to improve the quality of life in Westport. All the best for your future. You will be missed in Westport.