Wilton Police: Officer and Department Accept Accountability for Improper Handling of Turkey
A little over two weeks ago, community feathers were ruffled when a wild turkey was corralled into the Wilton High School field house and trapped in the gym rafters for more than two days. Further exacerbating the problem was video that surfaced a few days later showing a Wilton Police officer and another individual tossing balls at the bird in an attempt to get the bird to leave the gym.
Now, the Wilton Police Department has issued a statement accepting accountability for the way the officer on scene handled the situation. Saying that the department conducted a review of the incident, the statement “confirms that the officer used poor judgment” in his attempt to resolve the problem.
The statement does say that there the officer’s actions “were not malicious or intended to cause harm to the turkey” but rather an attempt to get the turkey to move on its own accord. Once a supervisor arrived on scene, the officer was told to stop what he was doing, and a wildlife removal company was contacted.
In the statement, issued by Capt. Robert Cipolla, the unusual nature of the incident is described as one that might not have been within the scope of the officer’s training.
“Our officers are tasked with responding to myriad different types of calls for services during the course of their shifts and careers. Many of these calls are general service-oriented calls that go beyond the scope of their roles as law enforcement officers or anything that was taught to them in the police academy. Despite that, our officers embrace the opportunity to serve the community of Wilton and solve problems, whether it is assisting a victim of a crime or assisting in an issue such as wildlife removal from a building.”
The full statement from the Department is as follows:
“On Friday May 10, 2019 the Department became aware of a video that depicted one of our officers throwing a ball at a turkey while at a call for service. As a result, the Department conducted a review of the incident. The incident occurred on May 6, 2019 when our officers were dispatched to the Wilton High School field house for a report of a turkey in the rafters that was defecating on the gymnasium floor. A review of our officer’s response did confirm that the officer used poor judgment in their attempt to resolve the issue, by throwing a ball in the direction of the turkey. It was found that the officer’s actions were not malicious or intended to cause harm to the turkey, rather an attempt to persuade the turkey to move from its current location. The review of the incident also determined that upon the shift supervisor’s arrival at the location, he instructed the officer to cease his actions and took the appropriate measures in making contacts to a private wildlife removal company.
“Our officers are tasked with responding to myriad different types of calls for services during the course of their shifts and careers. Many of these calls are general service-oriented calls that go beyond the scope of their roles as law enforcement officers or anything that was taught to them in the police academy. Despite that, our officers embrace the opportunity to serve the community of Wilton and solve problems, whether it is assisting a victim of a crime or assisting in an issue such as wildlife removal from a building.
“We encourage our officers to be innovators in their attempts to solve community problems they are tasked with responding to. We also accept accountability when our actions can be improved. In the current incident the Department and the officer recognize that the act of throwing a ball in the direction of the turkey was poor judgment. The appropriate course of action when confronted with a similar incident has been reviewed with the officer.”
GOOD Morning Wilton reached out to town and school officials shortly after the incident, and has again contacted school administrators to determine what, if any, further information they will provide on the incident–including whether they’ve determined who corralled the turkey in the gym and how it happened, or about efforts to remove the turkey.
Even while the turkey was still trapped in the gym, officials were trying to determine which students were responsible for herding the bird into the gym on Monday afternoon, May 6. Two unidentified male students were captured on video by security cameras outside the school, guiding the bird into the building, according to school facilities director Christopher Burney. The school did not made the security video public.
In addition to the original two students, the video reportedly shows an additional group of approximately 15 other students arriving shortly after and entering the gym. Burney says due to privacy concerns, there are no cameras in the gym to help officials identify any of the students.
It took about two hours for the bird to be removed by a professional company called Bats Be Gone on Wednesday, May 8, but until then the turkey didn’t budge from its spot high up in the rafters, despite a variety of efforts to entice it down and out. School officials contacted the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and reportedly used lettuce and watermelon to try to attract the bird down. When those efforts failed, they played a recording of a female turkey with hopes that the bird was male. Wilton Animal Control wasn’t able to retrieve the bird either.
Once Bats Be Gone was able to safely extricate the bird from the beams with a net, it was released into the woods behind the school.
The episode did disrupt some events in the gym. Athletic director Chris MacDougal postponed cheerleading tryouts and rescheduled gym classes, thanks to the lurking turkey. Of course with nature comes … natural events, which meant some significant cleanup from an animal that didn’t care to ask where the restrooms are.
Burney told us that WHS plant manager Cesar Jimenez and the custodian team kept the field house floor and bleachers clean, washing and sanitizing everything as “part of the normal cleaning process… it gets washed and whatever’s contaminated gets sanitized.”
He also added that any students identified as being responsible for trapping the turkey would be asked to cover any costs associated with the wildlife removal company and cleaning.