Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe announced today he has appointed a three-person Civilian Review Panel (CRP) to aid in the first responder hiring process and provide feedback in the civilian complaint process.
Two of its members are fellow selectmen Jennifer Tooker and Melissa Kane as well as Harold Bailey, chair of the town’s diversity body, TEAM Westport.
Westport, unlike many surrounding communities, including Weston and Fairfield, has not had a Police Commission, which is authorized under state statute. The law gives such commissions the power of appointment, promotion, and removal of officers.
In announcing formation of the CRP, Marpe said: “In light of recent events around the country, the elected leadership of the Town of Westport and the Westport public safety departments recognize the need to continue to foster and maintain the public’s trust in its personnel.”
He continued: ”Our first responders, Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS), have always been committed to providing the highest levels of service with utmost professionalism, transparency and accountability.
“Today’s climate, however, demands a reassessment of goals, an even higher degree of commitment, and a clear way to incorporate and engage the members of the Westport community that the public safety departments serve.”
Marpe’s announcement noted that the concept of civilian participation has been utilized by the Police Department in the last several hiring cycles.
“Like their predecessors in this process, the CRP will participate in the interview selection of both new hires and lateral transfer applicants,” he said.
Marpe said the CRP would review civilian complaints but not have the final word on any discipline.
“To allow for unhindered operations and as a reflection of trust, the chiefs of the departments retain responsibility for the ultimate decisions related to the severity of any imposed discipline,” Marpe said.
Westport’s chiefs of police and fire said they welcomed the appointments.
Police Chief Foti Koskinas said, “My goal upon assuming the role of Chief of Police was to continue to build on the foundation of public trust carefully fostered between this department and our residents.
“Now, at a time when police departments across the country are looking introspectively at ways to better serve our communities, I believe that this is an important step in continuing to maintain complete transparency, in preserving public trust and in reassuring our residents that effective policing is truly a collaborative effort.”
Fire Chief Rob Yost added, “The Westport Fire Department continues to strive to diversify in its hiring of recruit firefighters and, to that end, welcomes the assistance from the CRP. I would also welcome their assistance with any questions of conduct or complaints of fire personnel to insure the continued high level of public trust and support of the Fire Department.”