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Old Lyme police officer on leave after incident in Old Saybrook

Old Lyme – An officer with the Old Lyme Police Department has been placed on paid leave while he is investigated for incidents including the alleged use of a racial slur in Old Saybrook.

Jay Rankin was placed on paid administrative leave by First Selectman Tim Griswold in a Sept. 22 email "effective immediately and continuing until further notice." In the message, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, Rankin was told to turn in his badge, gun, vehicle keys and any other town property to Resident State Trooper Matt Weber.

Rankin makes $79,456 annually, according to Griswold.

Griswold declined to discuss the specifics of the allegations, which he said are the subject of an internal affairs investigation by the Connecticut State Police. He said one incident occurred in Old Saybrook, with "a couple other incidents" occurring internally.

Rankin retired as a master sergeant from Old Saybrook Police Department in 2017 after 29 years of service, according to Old Saybrook documents. He was chief of the Old Saybrook Fire Department from 2015-18.

Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal on Monday confirmed that Griswold communicated with her on Sept. 22 that he had put Rankin on paid leave. She said she understands that Rankin is being investigated for allegedly yelling a racial slur at a pedestrian on Main Street in Old Saybrook.

"I'm aware that the state is investigating this and I think that's the appropriate process," she said. Nosal for more than a year has been unsuccessful in getting her two fellow selectmen's support for a resolution identifying racism as a public health crisis.

She said she was told neither of the other incidents involved allegations of racism.

Selectman Chris Kerr did not return a call for comment on Rankin's status.

Rankin, reached by phone Monday, declined to comment on the allegations.

"I was told by my lawyer not to say a word to anybody," he said.

The Day submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Old Saybrook Police Department on Wednesday for any recent complaints or reports associated with Rankin. The department acknowledged receipt but did not provide a response by press time.

Rankin is listed on the Old Saybrook Fire Department website as a regular member. Fire Chief Joe Johnson did not return multiple calls and an email about Rankin's status with the fire department.

It is unclear if Rankin was acting in a volunteer firefighter capacity at the time of the incident.

Griswold said the two incidents connected to the Old Lyme police department that are being investigated were not based on complaints but on observations by the department supervisor. The department of six full-time officers and two part-time officers is overseen by Weber, the resident state trooper.

The decision to place Rankin on paid leave was made after conversation with "various officials," according to Griswold.

He said putting the officer on paid leave means Rankin "is not financially harmed, but it enables the investigation to go on and we'll see where that goes."

Meanwhile, Rankin is being paid for all scheduled hours and "must remain available during those hours to be called in to work at any time as needed in furtherance of our investigation," according to the letter placing him on leave.

Griswold could not estimate how long the state police investigation would take. He added that he and other officials would decide the next steps once state police complete their report.

"As typical with these things, when an investigation is being conducted, I think people are constrained from making public comment and hopefully individuals that are interested would understand that," he said.

e.regan@theday.com

 

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