Windsor Locks Officer, Father On Leave, Drawing 100% Pay

The Hartford Courant

The Windsor Locks police officer currently awaiting trial in the death of a 15-year-old boy is receiving his annual salary while on paid administrative leave and town officials are reviewing their options, including whether to fire him.

Michael Koistinen has been on paid administrative leave since the Oct. 29 crash that claimed the life of 15-year-old Henry Dang. Koistinen has been charged with manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter and attempting to tamper with evidence.

State police have said Koistinen's car struck Dang after the officer spent nearly six hours drinking alcohol and 19 minutes after he left the Suffield Tavern. They estimate he was traveling more than 70 mph when he struck the teenager, who was riding his bike home near the intersection of Spring and West streets.

Koistinen, 24, made his first court appearance last week and pleaded not guilty. With the possibility that it could take years for the case to wind through the court system, town officials are faced with the prospect of continuing to pay him his $59,976 annual salary.

Koistinen's father, Sgt. Robert Koistinen, is now also on paid administrative leave and is being paid his salary of $73,385, according to Police Chief John Suchocki.

Robert Koistinen was the duty sergeant in charge the night of the crash. He also never returned to work, originally using accumulated sick time. With both officers now on paid administrative leave, the department is down to 23 active members.

Suchocki said that Michael Koistinen will remain on paid leave "pending the completion of our disciplinary process."

Suchocki did not elaborate, but First Selectmn Steve Wawruck said the town's labor attorney and the town attorney are reviewing options.

"There are certain steps that have to be followed within a contract. You just can't go and fire somebody,'' Wawruck said. "We are waiting for the state police to finish their investigation and reviewing all of our options."

Wawruck said the options will probably include hiring an outside agency to review the police department's actions after the fatal accident.

State police continue to investigate the accident and its aftermath, including whether Windsor Locks officers, including Robert Koistinen, obstructed justice to protect one of their own.

Attorney James Bartolini, who is representing the Dang family, expects the criminal case to go to trial, probably two or three years from now. Bartolini said that because Michael Koistinen is free on a $50,000 bond and is still drawing a salary there is no rush to go to trial.

Bartolini also said cases involving police officers tend to go to trial rather than end in plea bargains because the officers are fighting to keep their jobs as well.

Bartolini said he expects to file civil lawsuits against both Koistinens as well as the Suffield Tavern. Bartolini said legal options are being reviewed to see if it is possible to sue the town of Windsor Locks.

Copyright © 2018, CT Now