Ten Minutes With Lt. James Perez
This Fairfield police office has seen his share of duty
Lt. James Perez is marking his 20th year with the Fairfield Police Department. He’s currently the Commander of the Special Services Division and oversees about 141 employees in a number of divisions, including Marine Officers, Animal Control, and Accident Investigators. He sat down with me to discuss his extensive career.
Why’d you become a police officer?
You know, from a very young age, I’ve always had the interest to become a police officer. Growing up, all the television shows had police helping people.
Do you have a favorite division?
My personal favorite has always been working with the SWAT team. I love high-intensity moments, including the 2002 hostage situation at Fairfield University.
What has been the scariest situation?
When I first became a police officer, we got a call that a five-year-old child had got run over by a car. I was the first police officer on the scene and the crowd looked to me for answers. I was a fairly new officer, so I really didn’t know, kind of what I was doing, but it worked out fine. Another scary moment is coming across gunfire. I was in a shooting.
A shooting? Please explain.
The shooting happened at what used to be Boston Billiards. I was a brand new sergeant when this otherwise quiet officer was screaming into the radio that he was being shot at. Pretty soon, bullets were flying past me. In the end we shot the guy three times. He lived and was just recently released from prison.
Have you made any great arrests?
The greatest impact arrest was my contribution in removing gangs. Our investigations with the FBI were so effective, including wires, undercover operations, and crime dropped in Bridgeport by 40 percent.
What is the weirdest crime or criminal that you’ve encountered?
A husband was tied up by his wife, handcuffed. He called us because he couldn’t get out of them. And a guy wanted to buy a rifle because he wanted to shoot at aliens.
You were featured on NBC’s “Dateline” about a scam targeting a senior citizen. What was unique about that case?
Number one, the amount of money that was taken—$240,000—and number two, she had several people working her. She had a team of about eight different scammers.
What do you like about being a police officer in Fairfield?
We’re one of the few communities where if you call the police for any reason, you get a police officer. That’s how we like it, because it keeps us on our toes, it keeps the community on their toes, and most important, it keeps the criminals on their toes.
Is there anything you want to add that I didn’t ask you?
Policing today is much more complex, much more involved, and much more difficult than in years past. We have to be part teacher, part preacher, part counselor, part psychologist, part psychiatrist. We wear a lot of different hats and I’m not sure that people understand the stress that sometimes is incurred upon us. n