Chief Crosby headed south

Colonial Williamsburg, Va., is a picturesque southern town Police Chief Robert Crosby fell in love with 20 years ago when his in-laws moved there, so that is where he is going in his retirement.

Crosby hopes to be living in Virginia in early April.

“I’ve been packing. See the boxes?” Crosby, 57, said during an interview at his office at police headquarters.

“I’m going to play some golf. Although what I do isn’t called golf, it’s called hitting balls,” Crosby said jokingly about his golfing skills. He’ll take a full month off, something he has never done in his nearly 35-year career, and then find a part-time job.

“I’m sure I’ll find something in the law enforcement field or the computer field,” Crosby said.

He leaves town with his wife of 32 years, Meg. The couple has two sons, Bobby and Brian.

He leaves with only a few words of advice for incoming chief, John Lynch, who is now a captain.

“I don’t really have to advise Capt. Lynch, he’s ready for the position as chief, so  I would just let him know there are going to be sleepless nights. You wake up thinking about work, not bad things, but there is only so much time in a day. Some nights you don’t go back to sleep because you’re thinking about work,” Crosby said.

Wilton is a quiet suburb with about 45 officers on the force, one where crimes range from the occasional murder to shoplifting, the gamut of it all.

“It just doesn’t happen as often here, and that is what we strive for,” Crosby said.”I’ve investigated everything from murders to shoplifting.”

The one job that stands out as his favorite over the years though, was when he was the youth officer in the 1990s. “I look kindly on that because it was a position where you are liked by everybody,” Crosby said.

Police officers get a lot of negative flak nowadays because of the actions of a few who have made mistakes. He is aware of that, and takes pride in knowing that without his blue uniform, he is a father, a son, a husband, and would not be recognized in any way as a police officer.

“Without this uniform, you would never know I’m a police officer,” he said.

And he wears the blue uniform every day. He is not a chief who likes to wear suits and sport jackets. “It makes it easier to pick out my clothes in the morning,” he said jokingly of his sartorial choice.

He’ll retire two months shy of 35 years on the job.

“It’s been a great career,” Crosby said. “I think back, and I can remember vividly days I had at the police academy.”

It’s a job he has relished.

“I love getting up every day and going to work. I don’t know if everybody can say that about their job,” he said. “The majority of days, I looked forward to going to work.”

The town has changed dramatically since 1983, when he began. Back then, the downtown business district was barely developed. There were not a lot of stores and restaurants. “Back then, if you saw somebody drive towards the town center at 7 o’clock at night, you went over there to see what they were up to, because there wasn’t a lot going on there in those days,” Crosby said.

Today, there are probably twice as many roads and there are two to three officers per shift wearing body cameras, to record the interplay between officer and public.

There will soon be more of those body cameras, he said. The department is awaiting final approval of a state grant to outfit every officer with a $900 body camera. The department has been testing the cameras for a year.

“We’re in the final stages of approval,” he said.

He doesn’t have to worry about officers’ behavior being placed under the microscope of video scrutiny.

“Recruit the right people and you don’t have to worry about the other problems,” the chief said. “You certainly have to make sure you recruit the right people. That was always good for the town of Wilton.”

It is a town he takes pride in. He pointed to how many out-of-state license plates show up for the town’s annual Fourth of July fireworks show, held at the Wilton High School football stadium.

“For a small town, we have awesome fireworks,” he said proudly.

He is also proud of the annual Veterans Day parade.

“You hear stories of people who live in Wilton and their contribution to America. You never knew they were heroes. They are heroes. I’m fascinated by them,” he said.

It’s a job he has held since he was 23 years old, fresh out of Western Connecticut State University in Danbury with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

Crosby began his career as a patrol officer and has held virtually every position in the department. After eight years as a patrol officer, he served seven years as youth officer.  Succeeding positions included detective, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, and deputy chief.

In announcing Crosby’s selection to succeed former Chief Michael Lombardo, Chris Weldon, then chairman of Wilton’s Police Commission, noted Crosby’s experience and added, “Bob went to Wilton High School. He’s been in town for years and is a born-and-bred Wilton guy.”

It’s not only the job Crosby will miss. “I’ll miss the people,” he said.