Fairfield Police Union takes "personal offense" at "disparaging" suggestion no crime is occurring

Photo of Ben Lambert

FAIRIFELD — The Fairfield Police Union expressed the “personal offense” its members took at the suggestion that no crime in town was occurring during the pandemic in an open letter Friday, responding to comments made by Board of Finance Member James Walsh.

Walsh questioned the amount of overtime accrued by the fire and police departments during the pandemic in a meeting earlier this week, suggesting the latter “seems to be out of control when there is no crime going on in town.”

The meeting has been posted online on the FairTV YouTube page. Walsh makes his remarks around the 2:56:00 mark of the meeting. The discussion begins around 2:44:00.

The comment was made while the board discussed $210,000 in coronavirus-related expenditures made by town departments through April 15. The department had spent nearly $60,000 in recent weeks, according to Patch. Walsh expressed concerns the department could reach $100,000 by May 15.

The union said that “certain members of the Board acted in a childish and immature manner” during the meeting, which led union members to take “personal offense to their comments along with their lack of decorum and inability to lead by example,” according to the open letter issued Saturday.

Walsh’s remarks, which included the suggestion that police were rarely seen when residents drove through town at night, were “particularly insulting,” union members said.

“This is likely one of the most uninformed and thoughtless comments made by a representative of our town in the recent past. It is apparent that Mr. Walsh has no perception of the reality in which he lives, the reality that is Fairfield,” said the union. “Now, we pride ourselves in Keeping Fairfield Safe, but make no mistake about it, crime occurs, and the fact that a town representative is so naive to this fact is not just stunning, it’s concerning.”

Union members cited 46,000 calls for service and more than 500 arrests in 2019, as well as more than 14,000 calls for service “in the last four months” as examples in the letter.

The department has conducted “over 77 investigations including, suspicious/untimely deaths, Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, Recovery of stolen vehicle used in shooting, Recovery of multiple other stolen vehicles, an (o)verdose death, and narcotics (heroin) distribution” in the last two months, union officials said.

“But hey, there is no crime in Fairfield, and all of this easily explains why again, according to Mr. Walsh, ‘you drive through this town at night, you can’t find a cop...it’s a ghost town,’” union members said. “Perhaps that is because we are busy doing our jobs! And even more concerning about this comment, was the laughter from the other members of the board which followed! Disgusting!”

Union officials also spoke out against the “thought of approaching the Town’s Unions to re-open their contracts, “reportedly expressed by Walsh and others, saying that the union had “agreed to very modest contracts with very modest raises while agreeing to contribute more to our pension fund and other post-retirement benefits” in better times.

“Our members will remain steadfast during this crisis as we have in the past during natural disasters, presidential visits, and every other circumstance thrown our way. Our mission is to Keep Fairfield Safe and we will continue to accomplish this mission with the same professionalism, honor, and excellence our community has enjoyed since the Police Department’s inception in 1930,” union officials said. “We ask that Mr. Walsh and the rest of the Board of Finance do the same and hold themselves to the high standards expected of the positions they hold. We find it difficult to understand how an individual who speaks so negatively about the Town’s employees, holds such an important position within our Town’s government.”

The complete letter by the union was posted on its Facebook page. Walsh did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Saturday.

The Fairfield Firefighters Association, IAFF 1426, also issued an open letter expressing displeasure with Walsh’s remarks Friday.

“I now ask Jim Walsh and the Board of Finance (who at worst, chuckled along with his comments, or at best, remained silent) to do the right thing and apologize,” said Union President William Tuttle in the letter. “If he refuses to do so, I ask him to resign. I will accept the former but prefer the latter.”