DARIEN — It’s been almost one year since Ray Osborne was named chief of the Darien Police Department. Despite having served only six months as captain before being promoted to the department’s top spot, he said not much has surprised him about the job, except for one thing: paperwork.
“There’s a lot of administrative things,” he said. “It’s a lot of administrative work.”
Osborne said he’s been busy with paperwork over the past several months as he helps prepare the department’s proposed budget and their re-accreditation process. However, he’s also spent the last year working on continuing the department’s new initiatives.
Osborne said programs the department has released in the past several years — use of civilian dispatchers, installing a juvenile review board and equipping officers with body cameras — have all been moving along well.
The body cameras in particular, which were the source of some controversy when first introduced, have since been well integrated into the department. Osborne said the body camera program, which has been approved budgetarily for a second year, has mostly been used for officers to review their own footage, as well as given out through FOI requests from accidents.
“Not everyone was 100 percent on board with it when we first started for different reasons, but it’s been accepted and it’s been a pretty smooth transition,” he said. “We don’t get a lot of complaints here about officer performance. We have pretty high-quality officers so to speak and everybody follows the rules.”
Osborne’s first year has not been without some controversy though. In November, Darien was named in a study from the Connecticut Racial Prohibition Project at Central Connecticut State University, for pulling over a high number of minority drivers, specifically drivers who are Hispanic.
“A number of PDs were named in that,” Osborne said. “I’ve had discussions with the people up at Central Connecticut State University. I’ve had some phone conversations and we actually met with the staff here at the PD. They were cooperating. They want to look a little further into the data and we voiced our opinions on how they come up with some of those numbers. They were very receptive to our concerns and even agreed to some of the things we pointed out. But we’ve given them some data to look at to determine what the issue is.”
At the time of the report, Osborne said the department would gather its own statistics on the town’s estimated driving population which would include cars driving through off the interstate. He also added the study results isn’t changing the way the department does its policing.
“We told them ‘don’t let it change the way you do your job.’” he said. “We can’t do that. I don’t think there’s any officer here that racially profiles. I’ve worked with a lot of these guys for many years. I’ve never seen any evidence of it. I don’t want it to change the way we do business. We’ve pointed out to them the way we’re laid out with Norwalk and Stamford and I-95 going through Darien, it’s just a way of life here. We reiterate we want people treated fairly and impartially and we treat everyone with dignity and respect.”.
As his one year anniversary approaches, Osborne is also beginning the process of hiring two new officers for the department to bring them up to full staff from 49 officers to 51. Future goals also include looking into expanding the school resource officer roles, as well as getting more crisis intervention training for officers to help them handle calls involving people struggling with their mental health.
“Darien traditionally has always handled those cases very well because we have highly trained officers,” Osborne said. “We want to keep it that way. A lot of departments can get in trouble if their officers don’t have that kind of training. Sometimes those situations might escalate into a use of force type situation where you might not have to use force if you’re trained properly.”