April 5, 2020

Police Hire and Beavers Again Topics for Essex Board of Selectmen

ESSEX— Cops and beavers, two issues that dominated the March 16 meeting of the board of selectmen, were under discussion again at the board’s meeting Wednesday.

The hiring of a new town police officer was not on Wednesday’s agenda, though First Selectman Phil Miller had said last month that he would announce the hiring of Paul Kennefick as the new town officer at the April 6 meeting. There was no announcement at the meeting, but Miller said Thursday that Kennefick was hired earlier this week.

“He’s definitely hired,” Miller said, adding that it had “just slipped my mind” to formally announce the hire at the meeting. “It was on my list of information items for the meeting,” he said.

The selection of Kennefick, who has just retired as a Connecticut State Police lieutenant and commander of the Troop F barracks in Westbrook, has drawn a public campaign of opposition from John Orr, a town resident and former Essex police officer who left the force amid unexplained circumstances in the summer of 2005. Orr had claimed at the March 16 meeting that Kennefick mishandled a police internal affairs investigation of him in 2005, and was currently the subject of a police internal affairs investigation. Miller had said at the March 16 meeting that he knew nothing of an investigation of Kennefick.

Orr Wednesday presented Miller with a written confirmation that Kennefick had recently been the subject of an internal affairs investigation based on a complaint from another officer. “If there is such a complaint it is probably not one to be taken seriously,” Miller replied.

Miller said Kennefick is expected to begin patrol duties by the end of the month after a required retraining for service as a municipal police officer. He said Kennefick, with 21 years of experience as a state trooper, had received a top ranking from about 35 applicants screened by an area wide Law Enforcement Council review panel.

The recent lethal trapping of beavers in the smaller pond at Viney Hill Brook Park was also under discussion Wednesday. The trapping, which was approved by the conservation commission to prevent flooding and damage to trees at the park, had drawn strong objections from some residents.

Miller said the trapping had been completed last week, but declined to specify how many beavers had been killed in the process. He also predicted that beavers would return to the pond and wetlands at the 100-acre park, and suggested the conservation commission would further explore alternatives to lethal trapping.

Miller said the commission would consider all input received from the public on other options for responding to beaver problems, and would “be very thoughtful” before authorizing any future trapping. “It’s going to be a long-term management issue,” he said.

Selectman Joel Marzi said he was gathering information on options for beaver management, and would be attending meetings of the conservation commission when the issue is discussed in the future. “There may be some workable alternatives that can at least be talked about,” he said.