The Board of Police Commissioners fired Jason Anderson, a five-year department veteran, and suspended another officer, Richard Pisani, for 30 days without pay in connection with the incident. The board also extended Pisani’s probationary period, due to end in February, for another year.
Anderson and Pisani were heading back to Milford from a mutual-aid call in West Haven on the night of the accident. A video camera installed in Pisani’s cruiser recorded both officers speeding far above the posted limit of 40 mph. Pisani accelerated up to 72 mph and was driving at about 65 when Anderson barreled by him on the right, shortly before crashing into the teens.
He has been charged with two counts of second-degree manslaughter and one count of reckless driving, and is free on $250,000 bond. Anderson is next scheduled to appear Jan. 13 in Milford Superior Court. Pisani does not face criminal charges.
Anderson was joined in the packed hearing room by Jeffrey Matchett, a retired Milford police sergeant who is now executive director of Council 15 of the Connecticut Police Unions, and Eric Brown, legal counsel for the association. After the board voted to terminate him, the officer and his brother Richard, a Milford police sergeant, moved through a crowd of family, friends and fellow officers, accepting hugs. Jason Anderson declined to comment to a reporter.
The commission’s action doesn’t change a thing, according to the lawyer for the family of David Servin, one of the 19-year-olds who died in the crash. “Whether or not they are fired or suspended is not the issue to me and my clients,” attorney Bart Halloran said before the meeting. “I think the chief and the commission have a duty to clarify what the two officers were doing that night.”
Witnesses told State Police that the two Milford officers appeared to be drag racing. A State Police investigation found Anderson was driving 94 mph when he crashed into the car carrying Servin and Ashlie Krakowski. The couple was traveling in the opposite direction and attempted a left-hand turn onto Dogwood Road in front of Anderson’s cruiser shortly after 2 a.m.
Halloran confirmed that toxicology reports show that Servin’s blood alcohol level was 0.13 when he died at the crash scene, far above the 0.02 limit for those under 21 and the 0.08 limit for adults. Although State Police have said that Servin was driving, Halloran and John Wynne, the Krakowski family lawyer, are not sure. They haven’t been able to have their experts inspect the car, Halloran said.
“But the (toxicology results) are a red herring anyway,” the Servins’ lawyer said Monday. “To have someone driving 94 miles an hour in the right lane — passing someone — is so far beyond the human experience of making a left turn. We’ve all made left turns and had it be closer than we wanted because we misjudged the speed. But this guy was going 94 miles an hour — nothing prepares you for that.”
The police commission agreed with Chief Keith Mello’s conclusion that both officers violated department policy, particularly the requirement that officers follow posted speed limits when not responding to an emergency.
“I would like to remind everyone that there are 111 police officers in this department who have and will continue to put their safety on the line to protect others,” Mello said. “With rare exception, they perform admirably and honorably and they have served this community well for decades.”
The difference in the severity of the discipline is partly due to the outcome of the incident, said Sgt. Vaughan Dumas, a department spokesman, and partly because the officers were travelling at different speeds. State statutes treat speeds above 80 mph as reckless driving violations, and below 80 as speeding infractions.
The commission voted unanimously on both officers’ discipline, spending 30 minutes reviewing the internal investigation of Anderson and nearly an hour on the report concerning Pisani. Six members voted; Chairman Carleton Giles, a Norwalk police officer, recused himself, citing his professional contact with Council 15 union officials. Labor lawyer Lawrence Sgrignari, of Hamden, represented the city on both matters.
Anderson had been on paid administrative leave since Nov. 10, the date of his arrest. Pisani had been working his regular 4 p.m. to midnight shift while the internal investigation was going on