Veteran cops hangs up his spurs

Readers of Darien news are used to seeing the name Capt. Fred Komm in crime stories and in the weekly blotter. As spokesman for the department for over a decade, Komm, a Trumbull resident, is known for his matter-of-fact reporting, quick wit and strong sense of what matters.

But after 36 years of fielding press calls, investigating homicides, tracking down thieves and any other number of duties, including innumerable behind-the-scene tasks, Komm decided it was time to retire.

“It’s been a great run for me personally,” Komm said in an interview. “I’ve built a lot of relationships which I’ll always have with me.”

As the longest serving active Darien officer, Komm will spend his retirement on the Tokeneke Patrol, so he will still use his same locker and he will still be a sworn officer of the law.

This new position will take him from his administrative tasks and toward doing what he likes best — being with people.

“I’m looking forward to the next move,” he said. He used to be “behind a desk at a computer” most of the time, but now, he said, he will be able to work directly with residents.

Komm, a father of three, didn’t know much about Darien or law enforcement when, on a whim, he and now Lt. Ron Bussell filled out a police application that a mutual friend gave them.

“It was kind of out of the blue,” Komm said of his beginnings with the department. But his decision has since been paid forward. One of his sons became a cop after looking into Komm’s profession.

When he started working in Darien in the 1970s, Komm said the town was much different, and as technology and society has evolved, the role of an officer has adapted commensurately.

“You see a lot of mental illness these days,” Komm said, adding that psychiatric hospitals are closing, and the number of medications people are on can create difficult scenarios if someone is under arrest and they have not ingested their prescribed meds.

“We’ve done a lot more emergency committals than in the past, for psychological reasons,” he said.

The ubiquity of social media has also influenced cop behavior, Komm said. When asked what advice he had for new officers, Komm, who doesn’t tweet or use Facebook, suggested newbies carefully consider everything they reveal via social media.

“It’s burned some guys in the past,” Komm said, noting that some might have been fired for things they put on Facebook.

“You gotta be careful, whatever you put out there,” he said.

A cop’s job, though, has essentially stayed the same, he said. And over the last four decades, Komm has experienced many moments that stick in his memory to this day — memories that other people would also likely never forget, despite valiant efforts to rid their minds of such recollections.

There was the moment when Komm found the body of 13-year-old James Hafner, who was murdered by Darien resident Gordon Burge. Burge was sentenced to 10 years for the 1980 crime.

Komm worked the 1987 case involving Patrick Campbell, a young man who was convicted of bludgeoning his parents to death with a hatchet and sledgehammer and setting them on fire in their backyard, reportedly because his parents wouldn’t pay certain medical bills or cover the cost of a telephone call. Campbell was caught in Kent, Conn., after a chase involving police cars and an airplane found him in a stolen car with his girlfriend.

There have also been fatal accidents and suicides he investigated — some with scenes so gruesome that he could never erase the memories from his mind, he said.

But nothing stands out like the murder of Komm’s friend and fellow cop Kenneth Bateman. Bateman was shot to death while investigating a burglar alarm at the Post Road Dutchess in 1981.

“It weighs on the department and myself personally,” Komm said in an earlier interview. “He was a friend of mine.”

Komm didn’t waste any time between retiring from the Darien force and moving on to the Tokeneke Patrol, the privately—funded law enforcement wing of the Tokeneke Association. After a week of getting things together, Komm had jumped into his new role.

His time served as a policeman is eclipsed only by the number of years he’s been married to his wife, Carol — they’ve been husband and wife for 38 years. Komm is also grandfather to three children, the third having only arrived recently.

Komm started off walking the beat in 1977 and rose through the ranks before becoming a captain in 1993. In addition to holding a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, he also graduated from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va.

Det. Mark Cappelli will be handling press duties in the interim, Komm said, along with Sgt. Jeremiah Marron, public information officer. Cappelli lauded Komm’s career as something other cops could aspire toward.

“He did everything to his utmost ability,” Cappelli said. “He’s going to be missed.”