The town of Windsor Locks has been ordered to rehire a police sergeant who was accused of covering up a deadly crash that involved his son.
In a news release issued Thursday night, the town said it was given the decision by the Connecticut State Board of Mediation and Arbitration to rehire Sgt. Robert Koistinen.
"The arbitration award speaks for itself," said Kevin Brace, chairman of the Windsor Locks Police Commission. "We will have a special police commission meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday night to discuss this decision and the possibility of pending litigation with our labor attorney."
The board said that while Koistinen may have acted inappropriately, he didn't violate police policy and didn't deserve to lose his job.
The members of the board said Koistinen should be given his job and lost wages back.
Last fall, Koistinen, who has been with Windsor Locks Police Department for 34 years, was found not guilty of allegedly hindering a fatal accident investigation. The jury decided that there was not enough evidence to convict him.
Prosecutors said his son, Michael Koistinen, also a former Windsor Locks police officer, hit and killed 15-year-old Henry Dang in 2010. Dang was riding his bike at the time.
Michael Koistinen is serving a five-year prison sentence. He was drunk at the time of the crash, prosecutors said.
In the state panel's 12-page report, members wrote "once he (Robert Koistinen) arrived on the scene, he immediately requested senior officers, including the chief, be notified ... to take over the investigation."
The members of the board go on to say appropriate discipline shall be an unpaid one-year suspension.
The panel, however, doesn't completely excuse Robert Koistinen's actions that night, altogether.
"He (Robert Koistinen) displayed poor judgment in placing his son in the back seat of his car and traveling to and from police headquarters on 2 occasions over a very short period of time. The appropriate court of action grievant should have pursued was to make certain he had absolutely no contact with his son that night," the report stated.
Robert Koistinen didn't want to talk to Eyewitness News directly, but his attorney told the station he's happy with the decision. Though he thinks the year suspension was a bit severe.
"Since his acquittal, we've tried to resolve this matter with the town. It was really unnecessary to have to go to an arbitrator and not fair to the taxpayers," Robert Koistinen's attorney told Eyewitness News.
Eyewitness News was not successful getting through to Dang's family. Their attorney did not return the station's call or email.
While town leaders including the police commissioner, first selectman, town and labor attorney aren't commenting on the ruling, taxpayers had plenty to say.
"I am yes, definitely. Fair is fair," said Mary Broderick about the outcome.
"It doesn't seem right that he should get his job back, especially with back pay," said Tom Margagnoni. "It seems like he covered up and helped rush his son out of scene and helped cover up for him."
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