The legislature’s Labor and Public Employees Committee today heard testimony on a bill the origins of which date back to last February’s savage chimpanzee attack in Stamford on Charla Nash.
The legislation would allow police officers who use lethal force on an animal in the line of duty to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
Stamford Police Officer Frank Chiafari responded to Travis the Chimp’s attack on his owner’s friend, Nash, last February and ultimately shot and killed the animal in self defense. His workers’ compensation claim related to post traumatic stress was rejected five days later by the city because state law technically only provides that benefit when a cop’s life is threatened by another human.
Stamford Police Sgt. Joseph Kennedy, president of the Stamford Police Association, testified the union was willing to share photos of the crime scene to give them insight into what Chiafari experienced.
“But I will only share these outside the room and in private,” Kennedy said.
A few legislators expressed interest in viewing the photos, including Rep. Ernest Hewett, D-New London, who said they could be valuable to understanding Chiafari’s trauma.
“We didn’t see that,” Hewett said.
Sitting in on the hearing was Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, a sergeant in his town’s police department.
Witkos told his colleagues that looking at the photos of the chimp attack will never convey what Chiafari has to deal with as someone who witnessed the gory scene first hand.
“Officers will have that picture engrained in their memory forever,” he said, adding police officers regularly are forced to confront grisly and troubling scenes.
“That picture book in your brain just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” Witkos said.
UPDATE: Lawrence Cook, spokesman for the state Senate Democrats, said today (Friday) in an e-mail that despite the offer, the photos were never shared:
“I spoke today with Labor Committee Clerk Stephen Palmer and with Sgt. Joe Kennedy, president of the Stamford Police Association. Though he made the offer, Joe did not leave any photos with the committee, nor did any committee member take him up on his offer to view them.”