Letter: To protect and to serve?

To the Editor:

I am sure there are many stories of kindness and compassion following this last devastating storm to hit us. But this is not one of them. Our area of Old Sib Road was especially hit hard with 49 trees down over the street, one of which significantly damaged our house.

My son who works in Rye, N.Y., had to take a circuitous route home after the storm Tuesday night (May 15) to find a place to park as close to home as he did not have direct access to our driveway as it was blocked, as was the case of many other Ridgefield residents. He found his way to lower Rock Road on Tuesday night (the first night after the tornado), parked his car along with other vehicles who could not make it home and walked home. And again on Wednesday evening following his commute home from work, he parked again in the same location.

Imagine to his surprise that on Thursday morning his car had been towed!

On Wednesday night, Ridgefield Police Officer Jim Van Wattum, responding to a call-in from a tree crew working on lower Rock Road, made the decision to run the tag on my son’s parked car, write up a Notice of Vehicle Tow and call Marty Motors to arrange for the towing of the car — our only means for getting to town for gasoline for the generator and other supplies. Officer Van Wattum then proceeded to walk around the corner — the same route my son took to get home — and left the Notice of Tow in our mailbox, which was three doors down from where the car had been parked.

While I understand that the car had to be moved in order for the tree crews to clear the road, why could not Officer Van Wattum have taken the time to walk, not to our mailbox, but to our front door to contact us directly to inform us that the car had to be moved? This action would have cleared the problem faster and would have avoided a $150 towing charge and the aggravation of recovering this car — our only means of transport — during this period of disaster recovery.

It is my hope that Officer Van Wattum can use this story from a very upset Ridgefield resident to learn how to compassionately respond with the residents in mind, because he failed miserably in this regard.

This Ridgefield police officer added insult to injury and an unwanted distraction as we face the challenge of removing a major tree that damaged our home.

Lynda Walker

Old Sib Road, May 21

Editor’s Note: The Ridgefield Police Department response follows. “The Ridgefield Police Department has a process in place if someone wishes to make a complaint about an officer.  If an individual feels that one of our officers did something wrong, they may speak with the officer’s supervisor and/or fill out a civilian complaint form. The civilian complaint form is available here at police headquarters or online at www.ridgefieldct.org/police-department/pages/permits-and-forms.”