New Canaan Police Bully Journalist While Trying to Report Train Crash

Metro North Train Crash in New Canaan,CT Jan 27th 2011

Last night, in white-out conditions during the snow storm, and with slippery rail conditions, a train ran off the end of the rail at New Canaan. I saw the scene at 10:45 when I went to the Starbucks across the street from the station. I decided this could be a story to sell.

I started taking photos from across the street and then moved closer to the scene standing behind one line of police tape. A crowd had gathered and I started to chat with the photographer for the New Canaan News who had just arrived. The photographer said she’s just there to snap shots and there are no reporters in the office so she didn’t think they’d be trying to talk to the MTA about what happen or how they plan to get the train back on the tracks. Not surprising considering the lack of staff Hearst CT News has in New Canaan, CT.

So I hung out, standing behind the tape in this photo behind the one police SUV on the scene. MTA was letting people get close to the scene and snap photos on their property. The platform wasn’t blocked off and accessible to bystanders. Then at about 11:10 I watched a NCPD officer try to remove people on the platform from taking photos. I didn’t witness any of the MTA people try to stop photographers on their property in fact they were quite accommodating. When officer walked by me I asked if he had jurisdiction to stop people photographing the scene on the platform or remove people from the area. It’s private MTA property. There was no police tape indicating they couldn’t get that close. The officer yelled back, “this is a police investigation now we are investigating what happen in the accident.” I said I am journalist and asked if that was the police offical comment. He snapped back “I’m not going on the record” and proceeded then to block off the platform with tape so people couldn’t get close to observe the MTA workers trying to get the train back on the track.

I continued to stand and observe the MTA staff talk about what methods they were going to use to move the train. You could see blow torches and other lifting devices being brought in. From what I heard them say it was clear there were different views about how to proceed.

Then within a few minutes I saw New Canaan police officer Bentley walk over towards me. He asked I move from where I am observing the scene. I told him I’m a journalist trying to report, on a public street and he can’t remove me. I also said I didn’t think he had jurisdiction over the scene. Officer Bentley became agitated saying I had to move because I was blocking traffic. I said I am standing where other newspaper photographers were allowed to observe and shoot and that I wasn’t in a spot a car could approach. He yelled again I had to move and asked what my name was. I told him and Bentley responded “Oh I know who you are”. When I proceeded to cross the street in the direction he asked me to go, he then yelled he was going to give me a jay walking ticket because the light was green-even though he’d just told me to cross the street.

It was clear he was trying to remove me from overhearing how the MTA was planning to move the train. Or maybe he just wanted to intimate a journalist who had challenged the merits of his authority on the scene.

So I headed home to call an editor and see if they’d print a story on the New Canaan train wreck. I also checked in with Marjorie Anders, MTA spokesperson. I told her a NCPD officer had said this is now a police investigation and tried to remove me from observing. Anders said that’s not true. The MTA had jurisdiction and control over the scene and kindly answered any questions I had about how it happened. She also wanted to make sure I ‘d gotten the photographs I needed.

I then called the main line of the New Canaan Police station to ask if they were officially investigating the scene as the officer on the scene had told me they were. The dispacter on duty, officer Marabella, said no we are just assisting the MTA if they need help. I then told the officer what Bentley had done and he said “Yea I know the MTA told Bentley you were interfering in their work and investigation.” I said I don’t think that’s true because I just spoke with the MTA who was very open to talking about the investigation. He then said I could come in a file a complaint against officer Bentley.

When I was standing on the scene I knew I hadn’t seen any MTA people complain about me being there or even talk to officer Bentley so something didn’t add up. I called back the MTA spokesperson who check in with her team on the ground in New Canaan. Marjorie Anders then said on the record “No MTA person complained about me being on the scene. I am welcome to be there to observe and report.” She also reiterated that this is not criminal scene and the local police do not have any jurisdiction.

I think it’s pretty clear I was just bullied by the local police. I have challenged the local cops and their lack of transparency before and published a story outing it. I am currently investigating their role in ignoring underage drinking in town and not charging parents and minors for breaking the law and they are quite aware of this investigation. I am disappointed they continue to try to thwart my efforts to report and sell stories –especially when it serves the public interest.

As far as the train wreck goes it’s unclear if there was any error on the part of the conductor. It will take a few days to tell.

Here’s what I learned the MTA thinks happen to cause the accident:
“The first set of wheels, (a truck with two axles and four wheels) landed on the ground. Neither the crew nor the two passengers on board were injured. Because of the storm, the crane crew has not been able to reach the train to re-rail it,” say MTA spokeswomen Marjorie Anders.

The train was the 11:32 p.m. departure from Grand Central and it was due to arrive New Canaan at 12:27 a.m. Metro-North says it was an accident on Metro-North property and they are investigating the cause. As of 3 p.m. services is still suspended and she doesn’t know when the train line will be fixed.

UPDATE 7 p.m.: It looks like the NCPD let the New Canaan Patch film Metro North trying to get the train back on the track. Maybe because this publication never investigates serious issues in town.

UPDATE 1/31/11: Today I filed a civilian complaint against NCPD officer Bentley. A LT. Fred Pickering took the complaint, was very helpful and said it could take a week but this will be taken seriously. Pickering agreed Officer Bentley’s off-cuff comment about ‘I know who are’ wasn’t normal police behavior. Now we wait and see.


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  1. It's clear they are trying to give you a hard time after you challenged their authority and you were right to do so.

    It sounds like they abused their authority but I think you are brave to tell the truth.

  2. Hey I saw you on keiser and bookmarked your blog. You want a story on local police corruption I have a story to tell. How bout cops coming into a church, calling a Pastor from his pulpit and cuffing him in view of his people for nothing.

  3. Jordan Haas says

    He was just annoyed you challenged him. It's the nature of cops.

  4. Johnathon Margison says

    Very interesting entry, I look forward to the next! Thx for share

  5. Almost all of whatever you state is supprisingly accurate and it makes me ponder why I hadn't looked at this in this light before. This particular piece truly did turn the light on for me personally as far as this specific topic goes. Nicely done.

  6. We are a group of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community. Your blog provided us valuable information to work on.You have done a marvellous job!

  7. shrabanti says

    I simply second to the comment what Danny says above.

  8. Welcome to the club. New Canaan PD are a bunch of thugs. I frequently hear first hand stories of the harassment and violation of rights they inflict upon the citizens of New Canaan. Having an officer scream at you is commonplace. I even know of a case that went to the County DA when an officer falsely sited a drive at an accident to protect the driver at fault who was his friend. Of course nothing ever became public.

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