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Meriden Officer Put On Administrative Duty
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Chief's son at center of federal probe into brutality, favoritism

By AMANDA FALCONE,

The Hartford Courant

3:28 PM EDT, April 20, 2011

MERIDEN

The police chief's son will not patrol city streets until investigations into allegations of police brutality and favoritism within the police department are complete.

City Manager Lawrence Kendzior said he has placed Officer Evan Cossette on administrative duty pending the outcome of the investigations being conducted by federal authorities and an attorney hired by the city. Cossette will work inside the police station, or on special assignments, he said.

"We'll periodically review his status," Kendzior added.

Cossette, who has been a certified officer since March 2009, was thrust into the spotlight when two of his fellow officers, Donald Huston and Brian Sullivan, complained that there was a disparity in how the department disciplined its officers. They alleged that police brutality charges against Cossette were dismissed because of his father.

Three excessive force allegations have been made against Cossette in less than a year and are now part of a federal grand jury probe. All have prompted attorney Sally Roberts to file a notice of intent to sue on her clients' behalf.

A complaint was filed against Cossette after he pushed a prisoner backward into a concrete bench in a holding cell so that he could remove handcuffs. The prisoner was taken to the hospital and had to get 12 stitches.

Videotape captured the incident, but it was not reported to police administrators for six weeks. Administrators found that Cossette used unnecessary force, and he was given a letter of reprimand and ordered to take four hours of training on the use of excessive force.

In the other cases, Cossette was exonerated.

Cossette admitted kneeing a suspect in the face, but an internal affairs officer found the brutality allegations baseless after a six-minute interview with Cossette.

The most recent incident involved Joseph G. Bryans, who says Cossette shot him several times with a stun gun and refused to loosen his handcuffs when he was told they were too tight. Because of that, Bryans said he has nerve damage in his right hand.

Kendzior said he decided to place Cossette on administrative duty because it was best for the officer. The investigations could change how Cossette is treated by the public and make it harder for him to do his job, he said, adding that he likes to keep officers working during these investigations rather than pay them to stay home.

Cossette will be paid the average of his last 26 weeks of pay while on administrative duty, which includes any overtime pay he earned. His annual salary is $66,123.

In addition to the Cossette decision, Kendzior has also made a decision regarding two incidents involving Huston.

Huston was on paid administrative leave last year while the police department looked into whether he used excessive force during an incident at the local mall. He ultimately received a five-day suspension.

While on leave, Huston received his base pay — not his average salary over 26 weeks, and he filed a grievance asking for the rest of his money. Kendzior said the town has agreed to pay Huston the difference.

A March issue involving Huston has also been resolved. He was late to a private-duty assignment, and a tardy slip will be put in his personnel file, Kendzior said

Police Chief Jeffry Cossette, police union President Patrick Gaynor and Roberts, who also represents Huston, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
 

 


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