Once in Windsor Locks, it took Michael Koistinen an extra six months to become certified because he failed a driver training class, his personnel file reveals.
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By the time he was hired by the Windsor Locks department in 2008, Koistinen had been rejected by departments in his hometown of Suffield, in South Windsor, East Windsor and Simsbury, and by the state police. In two cases, he failed the physical agility test; in three others, his written and/or verbal test scores were too low to advance in the hiring process, the personnel file reveals.
The file shows that Koistinen finished 36th out of 39 trainees in his class at the Connecticut Police Academy after he was hired by Windsor Locks.
Koistinen, 24, is now facing a number of charges, including first-degree manslaughter, in connection with the crash that killed Dang while the teen was riding his bike home just before midnight on Oct. 29.
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, a state police probe concluded. His father, Sgt. Robert Koistinen, was one of the officers who responded to the scene and was in charge briefly. Robert Koistinen has worked for the Windsor Locks department for nearly 30 years.
Michael Koistinen had been a certified Windsor Locks police officer for about 10 months when the crash occurred. The Windsor Locks Police Commission offered him a job on Dec. 17, 2008, pending the completion of a psychological test, polygraph and background investigation.
The department's investigation into Michael Koistinen's background showed:
--The psychologist who interviewed Koistinen recommended him for the job but warned that "the candidate's maturity level may impact performance," that gaining experience in the real world would be ideal and that "the pros and cons of his maturity level" would have to be weighed before hiring him.
--Koistinen's previous experience showed no law enforcement background. He had worked as an attendant at the Copper Hill Golf Academy in East Granby and as a parking attendant at Roncari Express valet lot near Bradley International airport.
--Koistinen majored in criminal justice at Central Connecticut State University and had a GPA of 1.85 at the time of the background check. His CCSU transcripts show that he did poorly in core courses such as law enforcement and society, and extreme offending.
--In order to become a police officer in Connecticut, a trainee needs to complete a six-month course at the Police Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) in Meriden. His highest grade — a 98 — was in impaired driving, a class that teaches prospective officers which signs to look for to determine whether someone may have been drinking and driving.
Koistinen did not complete the POST training course in the required time because he flunked driver training, records show. POST executive director Thomas Flaherty said the driver training course includes classroom time as well as live training behind the wheel. It doesn't include high-speed maneuvering but emphasizes vehicle control through an obstacle course, Flaherty said.
In addition, Koistinen scored poorly on a laws-of-evidence class and had to retake it. Koistinen passed such POST classes as using an intoximeter and a responding to a mock accident. The mock accident teaches recruits how to investigate motor vehicle accidents by using a staged, mock crash at the academy, Flaherty said.
In July 2009, when he should have been graduating from POST, Koistinen instead received a letter from Flaherty informing him that he had one year to complete the courses he had missed or failed or he wouldn't be certified and couldn't become an officer.
For the next six months, Koistinen juggled working at the Windsor Locks department with finishing his certification requirements. He received another letter from Flaherty in December 2009 warning him that he still hadn't met all the requirements and was in danger of not completing basic training within the one-year period.
Koistinen eventually completed the training in early January 2010. His starting salary as a Windsor Locks police officer was $55,550; his salary is now $59,976. He has been on paid administrative leave since the fatal crash.
Robert Koistinen, whose salary is $73,385, also is on paid administrative leave.
Michael Koistinen has pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter charges as well as to a charge that he conspired to tamper with evidence. He is scheduled to appear in court again on Jan. 7.
The tampering charge stems from a witness who saw him remove "something" from his car following the accident and throw it on her front lawn. When Windsor Locks police arrived on the scene, the witness went outside and told the first officer she saw that the driver had thrown something on her yard. The officer was Robert Koistinen, who told state police he quickly searched with his flashlight but didn't see anything, and eventually told Chief John Suchocki about the woman's claim.
More than four hours after the crash, members of a regional accident team found a broken Budweiser glass on the woman's lawn that was still wet inside. By then, Michael Koistinen had been transported by Suffield ambulance to Johnson Memorial Medical Center, where he refused to give a blood test.