As Investigations Proceed-Police Dog Slated To Return To Service
As Investigations Proceedâ
Police Dog Slated To Return To Service
By Andrew Gorosko
As dual investigations proceed into possible wrongdoing by two town police officers, Police Chief Michael Kehoe said this week that the German shepherd police dog, which had been handled by one of those policemen, has been returned to the town.
Another town police officer will be assigned to handle the dog on law enforcement patrols, following a suitable training program.
Chief Kehoe said that the police dog, known as Baro, was returned to the town by K-9 Officer Andrew Stinson on November 19. The animal was brought to the Berkshire Veterinary Hospital on Toddy Hill Road where the dogâs health was checked and he was determined to be fit for long-term police duty, the police chief said.
Police then brought the dog to the Connecticut Army National Guardâs military kennel at Fairfield Hills where the he is now being kept, Chief Kehoe said.
Eight town police officers have expressed an interest in becoming the new dog handler, according to the police chief. Baro was born in March 2003, and went into town service with Officer Stinson in March 2005.
Officer Stinson, who is the former president of the Newtown Police Union, and police Sergeant Domenic Costello, who is the former union treasurer, are under investigation by Danbury police detectives who are probing whether the two men are criminally culpable in connection with a âsignificant,â but unspecified, amount of money that is missing from the Newtown Police Unionâs financial accounts.
Newtown police asked Danbury police to conduct the criminal investigation on their behalf.
Simultaneously, Newtown police Captain Joe Rios is conducting an internal affairs investigation into whether the two police officers were involved âin conduct unbecoming an officer,â according to Chief Kehoe.
Chief Kehoe placed both men on indefinite paid administrative leave from their law enforcement jobs on October 15. They have surrendered their badges, handguns, and police identification.
Also, the police union is seeking to expel the two men as members of the organization in an action that would strip them of protections provided to them as union members.
Both officers are continuing to receive their salaries while off duty, Chief Kehoe said.
Chief Kehoe declined to disclose the magnitude of the possible theft of funds, which is the focus of both the Danbury police investigation and the Newtown police internal investigation. To discuss such details now would be âirresponsible,â he said. The police chief acknowledged, though, that the sum in question is âsubstantialâ and âsignificant.â
Danbury police are seeking to discern âfinancial patternsâ in certain documents, which would lead them to uncover details about the missing money, the police chief said.
Four police union members currently are serving as its executive committee members. They are: Officer Scott Ruszczyk, president; Detective Daniel McAnaspie, vice president; Sergeant Aaron Bahamonde, treasurer; and Officer Michael McGowan, secretary.
If the police departmentâs internal investigation into the actions of Officer Stinson and Sgt Costello results in administrative charges being lodged against the men, the matter would then be sent to the Police Commission for its review and possible action. Hearings are required in such cases, the police chief said.
âThis is a complicated matter,â Chief Kehoe said of the internal investigation.
In order for the menâs base salaries to stop being paid, any one of four actions would need to occur, Chief Kehoe said. Those are: termination, suspension without pay, resignation, or retirement, he said.
According to town financial documents, Sgt Costelloâs current annual base salary is $70,367, and Officer Stinsonâs annual base salary is $65,524. All police officers covered by the union labor contract are scheduled to receive two percent pay raises on January 1, 2011. The two officersâ paid-leave payments are based upon their base salaries.
Town financial documents indicate that Sgt Costello received an overall payment of $86,586 for the 2009-10 fiscal year, and that Officer Stinson received an overall payment of $83,842 for that fiscal year. Those amounts reflect their base salaries, overtime pay, private duty pay, and other miscellaneous police-related income.
Following Officer Stinson and Sgt Costello being put on paid leave in mid-October, police realized the need to plan for the future of Baro, the future of the police departmentâs K-9 program, and for a future dog handler, Chief Kehoe said in a statement. The police dog program is a key element of local law enforcement, he said.
âThereâs a genuine need for a [police] canine. The uncertainty of the program drove us to make some plans,â he added.
The police dog is used to detect narcotics, find missing persons, and apprehend criminal suspects. The police dog typically travels with his handler in a specialized police car during the evening work shift.
Chief Kehoe said that experts on police dogs were consulted to learn how Baro could best be put back into town law enforcement service.
The police chief said that Baro is expected to return to service with a new handler by late January.
Both Officer Stinson and Sgt Costello have had prominent roles at the police department.
Officer Stinson, 34, joined the police department in July 2001. He often demonstrated the police dog Baroâs skills to various community groups. The policeman received a bachelorâs degree in psychology from Western Connecticut State University in 1998.
Sgt Costello, 32, became a town police officer in October 2003. He was promoted to the rank of sergeant in May 2009. A former school resource officer, Sgt Costello has conducted the police departmentâs Citizen Police Academy program. The free annual program provides the public with an overview of local enforcement as it relates to the criminal justice system. The sergeant holds a law degree.