Positive Experience with Fairfields Public Safety Personnel

After twenty-five years of experience with public safety personnel while working in a town’s public secondary schools as a school administrator in which leadership, discipline and supervision were constant, interwoven aspects of my work, I had hundreds of occasions to call upon police officers and firemen for assistance or had to respond in some fashion to their routine or official visits to the campuses where I worked.

In one instance, where I was Junior High School Principal, we had the great misfortune of having to deal with the murder on campus of one of our students. That tragic event taught me the value of my “public communications” professor’s often-repeated advice to aspiring school administrators. He would say, “Always remember that when being interviewed, no matter the question, always know and restate your message. The job of a journalist is to ask questions. Your job is to know and repeat your message.”

Two events, years apart, took me on several occasions to Fairfield’s Police Department. In the town where I worked, I arrived shortly before seven and met with my head custodian for a view minutes before I toured the school and if nothing was amiss ended up I my office to pick up messages, put the coffee on and started greeting teachers as they arrived for work and came to the office to pick up the daily bulletin, check their mail box and Xerox needed materials for class.

One of these early arrivals for the past dozen years or so had been Sam, an earnest teacher, single, in his thirties and beloved by his students. He was always early, on time for his classes, a sticker for office routine and a devotee of school politics. I did not see him that morning, thought of it as very unusual, but went about my business. When he was reported absent from his first period class, we were concerned but not upset. His absence was an aberration, but something might have happened on the road. This was before cell phones.

Sam was not answering his phone at home. Had he been sick, he certainly would have called. He was a man who held to strict moral principles, an Armenian with a proud heritage who was totally familiar with his people’s history. There had to be an explanation. We would cover his classes.

An hour after classes started, I was concerned enough to drive back to Fairfield where I went to Sam’s condo. Having helped him settle in, I knew exactly where he lived. His car was still in his parking space. I knocked, rang the doorbell, walked around the house, trying to think of what might have happened, feeling there was a natural explanation. But at one point, I decided to go to the Fairfield Police department and was helped by an officer who agreed to meet me at Sam’s to see what could be done to learn what had happened to Sam.

The officer obtained a key from the super and entered Sam’s condo. I had not followed immediately, so he met me but a few minutes later. Sam had died in the shower. Dramatic it was, maybe routine for the officer. But I found him to be generous with his explanations as he proceeded to make his calls.

Many years later, the officers were very much professional when Fairfield detectives followed up on our daughter’s call to the department about the possibility of being able to identify a man they were seeking for an attempted rape of a young high school student on our street. Both officers, a man and a woman, were very professional in gathering information, being careful to allow my daughter to tell what she knew and recalled.

As for my experience with the local fire department, two contacts proved to be different; one I thought was disappointing in its ramifications, and the other was unusually helpful in solving the problem of the locked in dog.

Because our grandchildren live with us and we are ipso-facto guardians, we often attend elementary school functions in which overcrowded events in the cafeteria and illegal parking outside school that block all emergency approaches to the school building are pretty routine. I decided to visit the fire department to ask that they do something about this dangerous situation. It had been my experience that I could never have a public event without notifying the fire and police department first. It was board of education policy.

It was obvious to me that events should have had police and fire officials on alert to guard against possible tragic circumstances. I was taken aback by the fire officer’s response. He simply stated that they did not have the manpower to cover all events. He stated his view dismissively and authoritatively, so I left without argument and let the matter drop.

A recent event of another sort had a happy ending. Our granddaughter was dog sitting for friends. They told her where she could find the house key outside the front door and left on their trip abroad. They told her when to start her job. There would be friends using the house for a few weeks, and left a message as to when she would start.

On the appointed day, there was no key to be found anywhere, certainly not where they had said it was hidden. My wife solved the problem by calling the fire department. A captain explained that this was not a typical job but that they would come over.

A fire department officer came to the house, helped to look around. Verified that, indeed there was a dog, and kindly solved the problem when the dog kept running from window to door to window as they walked around the house to find an unlocked window. The garage door they found could not be locked and although the basement door was locked, they found the hinges on the wrong side, a few minutes later, the dog was out, they had found the misplaced key, and the dog was fed and walked. We had a story that every dog lover loves. My granddaughter was very pleased that another dog she loves was rescued and she could go about her business.