Wilton residents learn ins and outs of police work
WILTON — A dozen Wilton residents now have a far deeper understanding of the workings of their police department, and judging by comments made at a “graduation” ceremony on Oct. 30, they were greatly impressed.
The citizen police academy — a series of seven two-and-a-half-hour classes that focus on what the job of a Wilton police officer entails — was held this fall after a hiatus of several years. With a waiting list, Capt. Tom Conlan said plans are to offer the academy again in 2020.
The classes ranged from how the department is organized to budgeting; recruitment and training; legal issues surrounding an arrest; how the patrol, detective and school resource divisions work; the equipment and responsibilities of specialty units including SCUBA, honor guard and accident reconstruction; K9 demonstration; weapons; motor vehicle enforcement; practical skills such as firearms, use of radar and spike strips, medical response, and crime scene processing; and a tour of the building.
In addition to Conlan, Chief John Lynch and Capt. Rob Cipolla presented information along with more than 10 lieutenants, sergeants and officers.
Dropping in for the graduation ceremony — at which each resident received a certificate and was asked to fill out an evaluation form — was Don Sauvigné, chair of the Police Commission.
He offered his congratulations and said he was “delighted to see an interest in police matters.” He added that he took the course himself about a dozen years ago.
“You’ll take a lot of this with you,” he said, now that they have a better understanding of “what it takes to run the safety needs of a town.” He also asked them to support efforts to renovate or replace the building in which the police work, which has become too small and outdated for the department’s needs.
When asked what he thought of the experience, John Ragazzini said he found it “enlightening.”
“It makes me much more appreciative of the work the police department does … becoming aware of the capabilities of the police department. It’s unbelievable in terms of mutual aid, tactics and procedures.”
He added it gave him an appreciation for the need of a new facility.
Seeing what a real police officer’s life is like day to day was a “great experience” for Carolina Corrigan. She worked in a public defender’s office in Bridgeport years ago, she said, as well as having worked for attorneys, so she was familiar with some of the work.
She most enjoyed the practical aspects, she said, “to go in the car and see the fingerprinting, forensics and DNA. Just to see how difficult it is to see in the dark with those flashing lights when making a traffic stop.”
Participants were also allowed to handle some of the weapons police use and she found “how hard it is” to shoot a gun or a rifle.
Marek Mroz said that in a town the size of Wilton people sometimes complain about having nearly 50 police officers.
“When I learned what they do, they need about 50 to function,” he said. On the other hand, the facility in which they must function, he said, is “ridiculous. We’re in the 21st century and they’re 50 years back.”
On the whole, the police do a great job, he said. “It’s impressive for a small town to have a SWAT team, a dive team.” (Wilton police participate in those units with other towns and departments.)
“They’re not just stopping people on Route 7,” Mroz said. “We have a police dog to search and chase. It’s a fantastic program.”
Donna Peterson didn’t realize Wilton has a transient population of 30,000 or so who travel every day along Route 7. “A big part of their job is patrolling it,” she said. “One of the things that stands out, you always see police. They’re guarding the town. It’s very comforting to know they’re there.”