‘A profession based on integrity’: Fairfield’s new police chief aims for transparency

The new Fairfield Police Chief Robert Kalamaras outside department headquarters in Fairfield, Conn. on Wednesday, February 3, 2021.

The new Fairfield Police Chief Robert Kalamaras outside department headquarters in Fairfield, Conn. on Wednesday, February 3, 2021.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

FAIRFIELD — After completing his first full week as police chief, Robert Kalamaras is getting settled into the job.

“I had an opportunity to meet with, for the most part, all of the departments,” said Kalamaras, 46. “I went shift to shift and division to division and spoke with everybody about some of my vision on things and how we can improve the department moving forward.”

Kalamaras said keeping a positive outlook and maintaining ethical behavior are among the goals he has for the department. He said he wants to better the relationship between Fairfield’s police force and community, as well as improve traffic safety.

“For the 21 years I’ve been with the department and, I’m sure before my time here, there’s been an ongoing effort for increasing and improving traffic safety,” he said. “That has been a challenge as I’ve seen in my department for many years and I’m going to continue to focus on that challenge.”

Kalamaras said he is very excited to be in the position, and is ready to take what he already knows to be an incredible organization and try to come up with ways to make it better. He said he owes credit to a lot of people who helped him get to where he is.

He was selected a couple of weeks ago and sworn in on Jan. 22, replacing Chief Christopher Lyddy, who retired after 38 years with the department. Kalamaras’s salary is $169,000.

Goals

Kalamaras said that means the department’s traffic unit will have to increase its presence, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made that more difficult.

“Every time you have your officers enforcing traffic laws, there is an exposure to some extent with another individual,” he said. “During a traffic stop, we don’t have a way of knowing if that individual is COVID positive or sick in any way.”

Vaccines are a bit of light on the horizon, Kalamaras said. Many of the department’s officers have been vaccinated, which helps ensure its workforce stays safe and healthy.

He said the department must be transparent and ensure residents have access to information to build trust with the community.

“We give out whatever we can give out,” he said. “We don’t try to hide anything. We are in a profession based on integrity, and integrity loves accountability.”

Kalamaras said the department needs to make sure its policies and procedures are up to date, and that officers follow them while maintaining a high level of integrity.

Officers have told him they want better access to the training they need to improve at their jobs and also be able to move up the ranks.

“My hope is to make sure there is a fair process in place so officers can get the training that they need, prepare themselves for the job that they’re in and, additionally, be in a position that they can develop their role so they can improve the police department as a whole,” he said.

Background

Being a police chief is not always something he wanted to do, Kalamaras said, but he started to think about it more seriously a few years ago.

“Often times in police departments, it is timing that sets the stage for whether you are going to become chief or not,” he said. “I think that timing worked out for me. I come in and dedicate my life to this department, and I think that most people can attest I’m the first one here and the last one to leave on most occasions.”

Kalamaras said his previous position as captain of the Field Services Division, which had him overseeing the patrol force and detective bureau, helped him prepare for the job of chief.

“If you get down to brass tacks, responding to calls for service, interacting with (the) community, engaging in the community’s problems and finding solutions to those, is a huge part of this job as a police chief,” he said. “I think that it is going to serve me well in this position, having that picture.”

Kalamaras said leading the patrol force and detective bureau, which make up about 80 percent of the department and receive the most complaints, allowed him to get his feet wet when it came to dealing with those types of problems.

Policing under scrutiny

The relationship between police and people of color is a big topic, Kalamaras said, adding he thinks transparency is a huge part of that process because it provides a “level of procedural justice.”

“I think that a lot of it is about understanding different perspectives, and that people view things from a different lens,” he said. “That also coincides with everybody needs to have some respect for each other. We can have different view points, but we also need to respect each other.”

That is part of the challenge the nation is facing, Kalamaras said, but every one wants peace and harmony. In Fairfield, he said, the situation is pretty good.

“We have good relationships across the aisle and our community supports the police department,” he said. “And the police department supports our community. I think we are in a good place with respect to that.”

Kalamaras said tackling the issue will also require training, adding officers will need to get training in implicit bias and critical incidents.

“So that we have a better educated and a more prepared work force,” he said.