The Windsor Locks Police Commission Wednesday fired Sgt. Robert Koistinen for his actions during a 2010 traffic accident, in which his son, Michael allegedly struck and killed a teenager on a bicycle.
Koistinen, a member of the department for more than 30 years, was charged by Acting Chief Chester DeGray with neglect of duty and conduct unbecoming an officer. Koistinen’s termination is effective immediately, commission members said.
The commission voted on the termination at its meeting in after deliberating in executive session.
Commission Chairman Neal Cunningham said it was a difficult decision to terminate Koistinen.
“We terminated an officer who had been a fine officer for over 30 years,” Cunningham said.
Fifteen-year-old Henry Dang was killed when he was hit by a car driven by Michael Koistinen, then an off-duty Windsor Locks police officer, who state police allege was drinking for several hours before the accident.
When the commission voted to fire Robert Koistinen the audience attending the meeting applauded. Many of the audience members had told the commission on Tuesday that Koistinen should be fired.
Patsy Tomalonis reminded them Wednesday what residents had asked for before the commission went into executive session to discuss their decision.
“I just hope this board will listen to the townspeople,” Tomalonis said. “I know it’s a hard decision. I know it will heal the town if you fire Sgt. Koistinen.”
Douglas Hamilton commended the commission after the vote saying he knows it was a difficult decision. He said it was the best decision for the Dang family and in memory of Henry Dang.
DeGray had recommended that Koistinen be demoted to a patrol officer and be suspended for 90 days. Commission member James Gaylord agreed with that recommendation and moved that the commission adopt it. But the motion failed for lack of a second.
Gaylord said he understands there was a perception in the community that a cover up occurred after the accident. The town paid for an independent investigation by Frank Rudewicz which found there was no cover up, he said.
After Wednesday’s meeting DeGray said he reviewed Rudiewicz’s report and its conclusions, also the department’s rules and regulations in making his recommendation to the commission.
“The commission obviously came up with a different conclusion,” DeGray said. “That’s part of the process.”
DeGray said he is not disappointed by the commission’s decision.
The state police charges were not part of DeGray's decision because he didn't have access to their reports. He said if he had access to the reports he may have had a different recommendation.
Commission member Kevin Brace, who made the motion to terminate Koistinen, said he made his decision based on the department’s rules and regulations, state statutes and the report.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” Brace said. “I can honestly say nobody went in there with preconceived notions or an agenda.”
Brace said he tried to divorce himself from residents’ demands and base his decision in the rules and information presented to the commission. Brace said he was proud of the way the audience behaved Tuesday and Wednesday.
“They acted with respect,” Brace said.
Koistinen’s termination will not affect his pension, which is governed by the police contract, Cunningham said. Koistinen can appeal the commission’s decision to the state labor board, officials said.
Cunningham said after the meeting that part of his decision was based on how difficult it would be for Koistinen to resume work as an officer in Windsor Locks following the circumstances surrounding the October 29, 2010 accident.
According to his and his son's arrest warrants, Robert Kostinen was the shift supervisor the night of the accident. State police allege that Robert Koistinen drove his son back and forth from the police station while the accident scene was being investigated. The warrant also said Robert Koistinen prevented an investigator from the regional accident reconstruction team from interviewing Michael when he was at Johnson Memorial Hospital.
State police charge in his arrest warrant that Robert Koistinen rendered criminal assistance to his son Michael removing him from the crime scene to prevent, hinder or delay the discovery of evidence that may have lead to a criminal charge against his son.
Michael Koistinen, 25, of Suffield, is charged with first-degree manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter, negligent homicide with a motor vehicle, misconduct with a motor vehicle, and attempt to tamper with evidence. After rejecting a plea agreement offer, he is awaiting trial in Hartford Superior Court.
Robert Koistinen pleaded not guilty in January 2011 to charges he interfered with the investigation of the October 2010 fatal accident in which his son was involved. He also rejected a plea agreement and awaits trial.