By SHAWN BEALS and DAVE ALTIMARI, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hartford Courant
10:45 PM EST, December 8, 2010
WINDSOR LOCKS — Police Officer Michael Koistinen was fired Wednesday night by the town's police commission.
Koistinen is facing a number of criminal charges, including first-degree manslaughter, in connection with the crash that killed 15-year-old Henry Dang, who was riding his bike home just before midnight on Oct. 29. He is free on $50,000 bail and is due in court on Jan. 7.
The police commission, Town Attorney Scott Chadwick, town labor attorney Kevin Deneen, Police Chief John Suchocki, Capt. Chester DeGray and First Selectman Steven Wawruck met with Koistinen and his attorneys in an executive, or private, session for more than an hour before members returned to the town hall conference room shortly before 9 p.m. and voted to terminate Koistinen's employment immediately. The vote was unanimous.
He had been on paid administrative leave, drawing his nearly $60,000 salary, since the crash.
A state police probe revealed that Koistinen had been drinking alcohol for nearly six hours before the crash but was never given a test to check his blood-alcohol level by Windsor Locks police.
Commission Chairman Neal Cunningham said he voted to fire Koistinen because of the allegations stemming from the crash.
"They are only allegations, not proven in a court of law, but they are serious allegations and a young man is dead," Cunningham said. "We thought it was in the best interest of the police department to terminate him."
After the vote to fire Koistinen, the commission voted — also unanimously — to hire attorney Frank Rudewicz of Marcum Accountants and Advisors to conduct an investigation of the police department's response to the crash. Rudewicz is a former Hartford police detective and intelligence division commander with FBI experience.
The board of finance will have to approve hiring the firm.
Chadwick said the investigator would be hired to "measure our policies, procedures and protocols" in responding to the incident and make sure they were followed.
Wawruck recommended that the commission hire the external investigator to look into the department's handling of the crash.
Koistinen was officially hired as a Windsor Locks officer in February 2009. He was supposed to get his certification by the academy in July 2009 but he failed to complete some of the courses, including one on driver training. He didn't complete the driver training requirement until Jan. 4 of this year, according to his personnel file.
Suchocki, in a letter to Koistinen and the commission, said Koistinen should be fired as a result of the crash. Suchocki said new hires are on probation for one year after they complete field training, and that during the probationary period the officer can be fired at any time for any reason. The chief said Koistinen's probationary period would have ended Jan. 5, 2011.
After the commission's vote Wednesday night, Suchocki declined to comment on the firing, saying he cannot discuss personnel matters.
State police are still investigating the aftermath of the accident, including the actions of Koistinen's father, Sgt. Robert Koistinen — one of the Windsor Locks officers who responded to the scene and was in charge briefly. Robert Koistinen is president of the Windsor Locks police officers union and is currently on paid administrative leave from the police department.
Investigators are trying to determine whether local officers covered up for Michael Koistinen by not taking a blood-alcohol sample after the crash and by failing to search for an item that a witness told police was thrown from the car after the crash. The item turned out to be a beer glass.
The broken Budweiser glass was eventually found on the front lawn of a home near the crash site more than four hours after the accident and long after Michael Koistinen had been taken to a hospital in Stafford Springs and refused to have a blood test.
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