Sunday, September 30, 2007

Connecticut Keystone Cops

Records: Ex-Officer Almost Was Fired

By LYNN DOAN | Courant Staff Writer
September 29, 2007

WINDSOR LOCKS - A former police officer who reached a settlement with the town earlier this year was facing termination after forgetting his gun in various places while on duty and leaving sensitive paperwork around the department, according to records released to The Courant.

William Rousseau, who was hired as a full-time patrol officer in 1983, forgot to re-holster his Glock pistol at least three times in 2005, once leaving his gun on the front seat of the police chief's patrol car, according to Rousseau's file with the police department. He also left police reports, containing some private information, in areas of the police station that civilian workers could access, records show.

Police Chief John Suchocki recommended that the police commission fire Rousseau in September 2006, but the town ultimately reached a settlement with Rousseau, 59, for $110,000. Residents approved the settlement in a town meeting in July, but details of Rousseau's case were not made available during the meeting.

Under the settlement, the 23-year police veteran officially retired from the department at the end of July, said Rousseau, who argued that the town unfairly fired him without giving him the opportunity to remedy his mistakes.

He admits he occasionally forgot to secure his gun. A possible remedy for his forgetfulness, Rousseau said, could have been to request that his fellow officers remind him to re-secure his gun.

"If you were a senior officer, you could've said, `Hey, make sure you get your gun before you walk out that door,'" Rousseau said, "just a co-worker saying, `Hey, get your weapon and make sure that it's on.'"

According to police records, Rousseau first forgot his weapon Feb. 19, 2005, when he borrowed Suchocki's patrol car to take a bank-robbery witness back to the scene. When Suchocki returned to his car, he discovered Rousseau's pistol in the front seat.

Rousseau received notice of his mistake, but he was not suspended, records show.

Three months later, Sgt. Robert Koistinen climbed into a patrol car and discovered a fully loaded Glock pistol in the center console, according to a report Koistinen filed. The butt of the gun was leaning against the bottom of the console and the barrel was pointed upward, he said.

"The console has numerous items in it, any of which could have possibly contacted the trigger, causing the pistol to fire," Koistinen said in the report.

A list of department weapons confirmed that the gun was assigned to Rousseau, who was disciplined with a five-day suspension.

According to a memo Rousseau filed with the department, he placed the gun in the console a day earlier before entering court to process a suspect. He had been struggling to remember to recover his weapon from lock boxes, in which officers are required to leave their guns while processing defendants, he said in the memo.

By the time he returned from court and responded to a building fire - without his gun holstered - he was "extremely tired both mentally and physically," he said in the memo.

Then, on Dec. 29, 2005, Suchocki noticed that Rousseau was not wearing his service revolver while inside the police department, Suchocki wrote in a report. Records show that Rousseau had forgotten his gun in the department's lock box that day during an arrest and then, for more than five hours, patrolled the town without it.

He was suspended for 10 days.

In the same month, Rousseau forgot a pile of reports in the police department's workroom, Capt. Chester DeGray wrote in a memo to him. On the same day the reports were returned to Rousseau and he was warned, he left one at the dispatch station unattended, records show.

Suchocki declined to comment on Rousseau's case, but in a letter notifying Rousseau of his 10-day suspension after the December incident, he said: "Your forgetfulness in retrieving your service weapon from the cell block area and then going out into the community not only endangered your own safety but the safety of the officers who were working."

Contact Lynn Doan at ldoan@courant.com.

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Copyright © 2007, The Hartford Courant

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