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Westport Police Code Red Announcement: ‘Go To WestportNow’

Westport police suggested residents go to WestportNow.com for information on an alleged murderer who was apprehended in Westport last Wednesday.

While the accused killer was last Wednesday afternoon, parents were unsure if it was safe for their kids to get off the school bus and many Westport residents wanted answers.

An initial code red call informed Westporters of the situation early on and gave a description of the suspect, 35-year-old Thomas Gardner, of New Bedford, Massachusetts. After Gardner was in custody a Westport police commander made the decision to put out a second code red message to inform residents, according to Westport Police Chief Dale E. Call.

It was a desk officer who made the "mistake" within that announcement to request that residents refrain from calling police headquarters for more information, Call said. The message, instead, directed Westporters to WestportNow.com, which is  In addition, of the town news website.

“There was no intention to direct more traffic to any one news source,” Call said. “The officer should have merely directed callers to check available news sources without naming any.”

“This is clearly not acceptable and has already been dealt with,” he said.

Both Call and Westport Police Captain Samuel Arciola said the code red message was “police business as usual,” noting the does not give “preferential treatment to any one news organization.”

“There was no first selectman hovering over saying ‘put this out there,’” Call said. “As a journalist, that would be a pretty significant breach of journalism at that point.”

Call explained he was unaware of the "code red issue" until reading one of the comments about it on Westport Patch.

"I saw the comment on (Patch) and I knew it was a problem," he said.

First Selectman Joseloff was unavailable for comment.

Did you get a code red call from Westport police last Wednesday? Tell us about it in the comments. 

Editor's Note: The language in this article was changed in order to reflect the fact that a desk officer made the decision to mention WestportNow in the code red call. 

Stacy Prince November 15, 2011 at 01:30 PM
Leaving aside for a moment the egregious conflict of interest that's been going on for years, the Code Red itself was ineffective. Since the inception of the Code Red system, we've gotten 1) messages about mentally challenged people who wander away or 2) storm warnings that essentially try to make us feel guilty in advance for not maintaining an Armageddon-style bunker with 1-2 weeks of food, water, and firewood, 3) defensive updates on how hard CL&P is working, along with more notifications that we're likely to be out of power for a long time. So this particular Code Red was confusing. For the first time, we were told not to approach the person they were calling about. Was this person really dangerous? In what way, and to whom? Was I supposed to lock my doors and turn on the alarm system? Duck if I ran across him while driving through town? Avoid leaving home? For how long? I understand not wanting to panic anybody, and I would rather have the police dealing with the problem than giving me details I don't need. But I honestly don't understand the benefit of calling everybody with warning that is so vague as to be useless.
Marty Bell November 15, 2011 at 02:27 PM
I agree with Chief Call's comment that “The officer should have merely directed callers to check available news sources without naming any.” I also agree that “This is clearly not acceptable and has already been dealt with”. However the community should have more transparency into how these decisions are made, rather than "it has been dealt with". As a write-in RTM candidate (who lost by 90 votes), I also commend Chief Call in his statement that we will have a community outreach program. Let's get this started for everyone's benefit. I volunteer to work with the poice and be an active member on the community "side" of the program.
John Karrel November 15, 2011 at 03:03 PM
Not as if the Patch is a detached observer in this, or anything ... ; )
patricia sinclair November 15, 2011 at 05:18 PM
Really, don't we have more important things to rage about. I thought the content of the code red was decisive and well intentioned. Also, the follow up call that the felon had been captured was excellent. So please, calm down and stop finger pointing you are all grown-up's aren't you?
Nicholas Weiner November 15, 2011 at 06:42 PM
When I got the CodeRed message at my house I too thought it was a mentally retarded person who wanted to run away. Only after I checked WestportNow again did I find out they were after someone far worse: a first-degree murder suspect.
Ellen Linker November 15, 2011 at 07:00 PM
I appreciated the call to make us aware and lock doors as well as the follow up call that he had been captured. We have more important things to do than argue about minutia.
Pete November 16, 2011 at 02:11 PM
Dear Stacy Prince, Although you may find the CodeRED calls inneffective or annoying or vague they have resulted in 10 missing persons recovered in Westport. The majority of these recoveries were elderly residents with Alzheimer's and dementia. I think you'd feel differently if CodeRED aided in the recovery of one of your loved ones. Here's a nice story highlighting one of these amazing recoveries http://bit.ly/uq5vha - this recovery inspired a beautiful piece of art! In addition to locating 10 missing persons in Westport CodeRED has recovered over 1,000 missing persons (mostly children) nationwide. Sorry to hear Westport's attempts to keep you informed are annoying to you.
Tom Prince November 16, 2011 at 07:31 PM
Dear "Pete," You might want to read the original post again and look up any of the words you didn't understand the first time around. You missed the point entirely.

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