Name: Officer Diane Papa
Occupation: Police officer with the ; one of three active bike patrol officers on the Wilton force.
Tell us a little about yourself:
I like bike patrol! I like it because I get to be out there in the community, more one-on-one than having a car door between us. And I get to go places where the car can’t go, not just sidewalks, but in between buildings, and up close and personal with store owners and residents.
This morning I had a nice conversation with a three-year-old and a four-year-old as they were having breakfast at Connecticut Coffee, which I wouldn’t be able to do from the car. On the bike, I can go on the bike paths, and through Merwin Meadows. You get more opportunity to do community policing and see the residents on a friendly note, as opposed to just when they need us on a bad note.
How long have you worked in Wilton?
I’ve been working in Wilton since August of 2000. I’ve been doing bike patrol for three years.
What is the best thing about working here?
Wilton is a great town. They have it together. My favorite part of being a police officer here is that I get a lot of satisfaction and thanks. We may work on an ambulance call and once they get in the ambulance, we don’t know what happens after. But Wilton residents, they do appreciate us and a lot of times they do tell us that. Because of what I do, as the community police officer and on bike patrol, I hear it, maybe more so than the other officers.
Like when I saw the two girls this morning, I gave them my card and I told the mom to bring them down to the station for a tour. The mom was happy and surprised by that. Providing there’s nobody in lockup, the Chief is fine with me doing that. To be able to reach kids at that age is setting up a good relationship [with the police] as they get older because it’s not as easy to reach them when they’re teenagers. I get a lot of feedback from parents and they tell us they like seeing us out there. That’s the best part of the job.
What’s unique about your job?
[Laughs] On the bicycle, we can still pull over cars, believe it or not. We’re not running after them or blowing a whistle or going “Whoo! Whoo! Whoo!” But I can position myself in front of a car, because often they don’t expect to see a police officer on bicycle. So I can see them go through a stop sign or a red light, and I can just flag them over.
Through our training, we do go to a school for bike patrol, we are trained to go up and down stairs, so if we did have to go into a building we can go up and down stairs on the bike, and through the walkways in the office park, we can go where the cars can’t go. I can be there quicker if it does take place in the complexes. Because I’m not carrying medical equipment, if it’s a medical call, I’d defer to a vehicle officer because they have the equipment. But I can at least start the process. I am a little inhibited with other things I can do, but if it’s something happening in Wilton Center, I certainly can be on call and more agile to get to places where maybe a car can’t go.
How do Wilton residents react when they see you?
I get a lot of positive reaction and I hear, “It’s nice to see you on the bike paths. We do walk the bike paths. It’s comforting to know that you’re there.” The bike paths can be darker than the rest of the streets, and people like us there as well. I know when I go out at 7am in the morning, there are people walking to work, the parking lots are already pretty populated, so I get good reaction from people there. I ride through the complexes and I see people leaving for work from their homes and I get a lot of positive comments.
The town utilizes us for a lot of community events, like the Fourth of July, because we can go in and out of the crowds. I think this Chief of Police is very pro-active and loves community policing. He does want us out there, bridging the gap between the community and the police department. It’s terrible that we only see people when there are bad things or in an emergency situation. I think this sets us up to be visible in many different ways.