Crosby to be sworn in as chief

In an executive session at its meeting on Sept. 8, the Board of Selectmen approved the terms of a contract negotiated between the Police Commission and Interim Chief Robert Crosby, and Crosby will be sworn in as full-time chief of Wilton police on Tuesday, Sept. 22, at 5 p.m. in the Brubeck Room at Wilton Library.
“Anyone is invited to come,” said Crosby, “but mostly it will be people that I know: chiefs from the area, obviously anybody here at the department I’d love to come to it. You know, friends, family — that type of thing. But it’s not closed to anybody.”
Crosby was acting chief for eight months before being hired  permanently. He filled in for Michael Lombardo when Lombardo left Wilton in January to head up the Trumbull Police Department.
Crosby lives Bethel and is a 32-year veteran of the Wilton Police force.
Police Commission Chair Chris Weldon called him a “born-and-bred Wilton guy.” Crosby moved to Wilton from Norwalk when he was a junior and completed his junior and senior years at Wilton High School. He lived and worked in town as a patrol officer before marrying his wife Margaret, also from Wilton, and moving to Bethel.
“I probably spend more hours here in Wilton than I do in my hometown,” said Crosby with a laugh.
Crosby graduated from the Police Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) in Meriden and has a bachelor’s degree in justice and law from Western Connecticut State University.
He has held every rank in the Wilton Police Department: patrol officer, youth officer (now called school resource officer), detective, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, deputy chief, and now chief.
Judging from his many thanks, Crosby is grateful for his latest promotion.
“I’d like to thank the officers and the administrative staff for helping me out during this huge transition,” he said, “and I’d like to thank the commission for having the confidence in me to be able to do this job, and of course I’d thank my wife and kids for dealing with me,” he half-joked. “Could you imagine if your dad was a cop?”
And while he thanked his family at home, he had to comment on his other family down at the station.
“What’s nice about our agency is we’re middle-sized,” he said. “We’re not big like Bridgeport or Norwalk or Danbury. This is more of a family environment. There’s people here I’ve known for 30-plus years and have worked with for 30-plus years. I see them probably more than I see my brother and sister, so they are my brothers and sisters. It’s like a family.”
Though Crosby has made it to the apex of the Wilton Police Department, his continuing education as an enforcer of the law will not stop.
In October he will attend the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Chicago, where he has signed up to take a number of classes, including one that covers policing in the future.
“We’re all on the same page in that we want to be a progressive police department,” he said. “It isn’t just my dream; it’s the dream of all the officers down. We want to be progressive. We want the tools to be able to do our job well. We want to protect the residents of Wilton.”

A fresh department

“The department has changed pretty drastically in the last few months,” Crosby said. “We’ve had a bunch of retirements, and we’re filling in with all new people, so it’s a really young department now, and we need to be able to mold these young officers to be a perfect fit for Wilton.”
To Crosby, being a “perfect fit” in a place like Wilton means being very community-minded.
“I want them to become more community-oriented, where, we’re not just in a patrol car driving around. We get out of our cars; we talk to the people,” he said. “I started an initiative where, when a police officer comes out of the Police Academy, they have then a 12-week field training program where they ride with a seasoned police officer. They learn the basics in the academy, but now we teach them how we do it here in Wilton.”
That initiative took off in April. Since then, Crosby has taken things further by ordering the rookie officers to introduce themselves to local employees.
“What I’m having them do,” he said, “is I’m having them get out and go to each store, businesses in the center, around town gateways, the shopping centers. I have them go to all those areas, get out of their cars, and go meet the people who are working there.
He said the reason is “two-fold. One is so that you know exactly where these business are, what they look like inside, for a police function, that if we ever had to respond there for whatever reason they kind of have an idea. And two is just to introduce themselves and say, “Hey, I’m a brand new officer here; what are you looking for in officers in the town of Wilton?”

What’s on the agenda?

Crosby is working to acquire body cameras that will be worn by Wilton police officers.
“As you might know, in the media police officers are not looked on (with too high of a regard). People are very upset; they think maybe we’re all racist. If one officer does something wrong, no matter where in the country, they paint us with that broad brush, that we’re all that way, and I can tell you right now, knowing the officers as well as I know them, none of us are like that in this community,” Crosby said.
He remembered two instances when police cameras had proven complaints made against officers to have been falsified, one concerning himself. Someone accused Crosby of beating him up during an arrest, but in reality, the man had hit himself repeatedly while in custody.
To Crosby, a body camera is a promising solution that will aid investigations and thwart false accusations with indisputable evidence.
“It helps us investigate the crime because it’s on video, so we have proof of a crime sometimes. It also protects officers from somebody saying the officer did something that he or she did not,” he said.
Crosby announced the plan back in January after receiving a $5,000 donation from the Realty Seven Charitable Fund in support of the purpose.
Additionally, in late April the Board of Finance approved a $12,000 Justice Assistance Grant to go towards the cost as well.
If all goes to plan, and one final grant from the state of Connecticut can be acquired, Crosby said the cameras will be purchased at no additional cost to the taxpayers of the town.
During the last few months, the Wilton Police Department has been narrowing the list of potential manufacturers, and according to Crosby, it thinks it’s found a match with Panasonic.
“We have Panasonic cameras in our cars, and so the body cameras would link in with the dash cams.”
At present, police are waiting on a demo camera from Panasonic.
“It’s a new product for them, so we need to get a sample of it and have our officers use it to see if we like it.”
Now that he is permanent chief, Crosby will also look to fix up intersections that are common sources of complaint from the community, particularly the one situated at Route 7 and Grumman Hill Road.
“It’s been a problem for many, many years,” he said. “If you’re heading southbound on Route 7, there’s no turn arrow to go into Grumman, so as soon as the light changes, there’s so much traffic there it really backs up during rush hours.”
Crosby has inquired with the state and is currently waiting to speak with state officials.
“I’ve been in communication with the state. They’ve been pretty receptive to our ideas. Unfortunately, it’s not a town road; if it was a town road, I’d have more of a say. We’re just waiting for higher-ups from the DOT (Department of Transportation) to make a decision. Obviously Grumman and Route 7 is not the only problem with a state road in Connecticut. They have to weigh out which are the most important intersections to work on,” Crosby said.