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Senate Passes Benefits for Officers Following Chimp's Horrific Attack on Cop

Hartford Courant via YellowBrix

April 29, 2010

STAMFORD, CT – A bill prompted by a Stamford police officer’s fight with Travis the chimpanzee passed the Senate on Wednesday, 29-4.

The bill, which now goes to the House for a vote, would extend workers’ compensation benefits to state and local police officers in imminent danger of serious physical injury or death while on the job because of an interaction with a mammal.

Currently, only officers in imminent danger because of humans are eligible for work-related emotional and mental impairment benefits, such as counseling.

The bill would not require an officer to be physically injured to get benefits, but it does specify that either the officer or the mammal would have to use deadly force.

Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, proposed the bill after an incident in his hometown last year.

“The story of what happened is probably worse than any Alfred Hitchcock terrorizing movie,” said Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, who spoke in favor of the measure.

Stamford police Officer Frank Chiafari responded to a 911 call in 2009 and came upon a chimp that had gone berserk and had severely mauled 56-year-old Charla Nash. The chimp then went after Chiafari, who retreated to his police cruiser, where he shot and killed the chimp. Chiafari has said that he later suffered severe emotional stress and went into a depression.

Chiafari, who testified at a legislative public hearing earlier this year, asked for workers’ compensation, but his request was denied because current law does not give benefits to officers who are attacked by animals.

Subsequently, the city of Stamford did agree to pay medical bills for Chiafari.

Nonetheless, the officer is appealing the denial of workers’ compensation, and if the bill becomes law, McDonald said he would be eligible.

The bill would cover any claim pending at the time of passage in addition to claims made in the future.

Some lawmakers were concerned that the bill’s language was too broad and that extending the benefits would wind up costing the state and cities and towns money. McDonald said the financial impact would be minimal and the bill would apply only in limited, dangerous situations.

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities does not support the bill, which it called a well-intentioned unfunded mandate.

“One, unique and horrific case should not be the basis of such major, costly statewide public policy changes,” CCM said in a written statement Wednesday.

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