HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut state lawmakers got a closer look at an audit released in June that revealed more than 1,000 troopers submitted at least one fake traffic ticket over an eight-year period.
State lawmakers had the opportunity to ask questions about the audit and get some clarity about what happened at the informational forum held by the Judiciary and Public Safety and Security Committees. It started at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the legislative office building in Hartford and lasted several hours.
One thing was clear from all parties — they want to get to the bottom of this.
“We will hold those individuals accountable because they represent Connecticut State Police, and it’s unacceptable,” Connecticut State Police Col. Stavros Mellekas said.
Researchers on behalf of the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project looked at 800,000 tickets turned in to the board and compared them to tickets that went through the actual court system. They found that the number of falsified tickets could be between 26,000 and 58,000.
The data, in turn, skewed reports on the race and ethnicity of those pulled over. While no one actually received a ticket, it appears as though troopers ticketed more white drivers while underreporting traffic stops with people of color.
The audit found 1,052 troopers submitted at least one fake traffic ticket between 2014 and 2021. According to the report, one trooper assigned to Troop F wrote 1,350 fake tickets over three years. That trooper was not identified in the audit.
“The analysis, in our estimation, identifies a significant number of unsubstantiated infraction records that were submitted to the racial profiling database by both troopers and constables during all years of the audit,” Ken Barone, the associate director of the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy at UConn said. “Based on the analysis, we have a high level of confidence that false and inaccurate records were submitted to the racial profiling database.”
Black Lives Matter leaders in Hartford have demanded troopers be fired and charged.
“They should be decertified,” Ivelisse Correa, the vice president of BLM860, said Tuesday at a rally. “I don’t know another career in which something like this is possible. We wouldn’t accept this from EMTs or firefighters. We wouldn’t accept this from other taxpayer-funded careers.”
Commissioner James Rovella with the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection said the federal transportation department’s inspector general had subpoenaed them for records.
“We will dig into those names: exonerate those who are falsely alleged but pursue those who are falsifying these documents,” Rovella said. “What was the purpose? That’s what we’re trying to figure out. What was the purpose? If you’re not getting a better assignment, if you’re not getting a better car, why falsify?”
Gov. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.) has commissioned an independent review, which is expected to take three to six months to complete.
“What’s important for me for the leadership is get to the bottom of this — full transparency — leave no stone unturned,” Lamont said.
State police said they’ve already made changes, including disciplining two troopers in 2018 and implementing retraining across all troopers.
The Connecticut State Police Union asked the public to reserve judgment until the full story comes out.
“We believe this report was prematurely released, and there’s a lot of men and women who do this job — and do the job right,” said Todd Fedigan, the president of the union. “We don’t think the audit reflected that.”
“When you make these types of allegations, and there might be a plausible explanation, we owe it to them before we falsely accuse people,” Andrew Matthews, the union’s executive director said.
State police has asked all troopers to cooperate in the process.