MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (WTNH) — A new audit revealed Connecticut State Police troopers falsified tens of thousands of traffic ticket records, skewing their data and information aimed at tracking racial profiling trends.
On Thursday, the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney announced they opened an investigation into these findings at the request of Gov. Ned Lamont.
“We believe the range of overreported records to the racial profiling system is between 25,966 and 58,553,” said Ken Barone, associate director of the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy at the University of Connecticut (UCONN).
The audit was conducted by researchers on behalf of the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project. These researchers reviewed more than 800,000 infractions issued over an eight-year period, from 2014 to 2021. They found the number reported to the Racial Profiling Prohibition Advisory Board (CTRP3) did not match those reported to the state court system.
Under Connecticut’s 1999 law, state and local police are mandated to submit traffic stop data to the state. The report revealed the misreporting skewed this data and made it appear, drivers, who are white, were ticketed more than they really were.
“The records we believe were not valid, and there’s a high likelihood that they could be false, were more likely to be white,” Barone said.
Officials said the cause of the discrepancies needed further investigation to determine if they had been falsified or if the data was a result of training or technological issuers. State police said the number of discrepancies decreased over time, but even one is too many. State police released the following statement in part:
“The State Police are deeply committed to ensuring the integrity of Connecticut’s racial profiling data and to maintaining public confidence in the essential public safety services our troopers provide each day.”
Connecticut State Police Colonel Stavros Mellekas also said they’ve made changes, including updating their systems and putting guidance out to troopers.
“No one in the public received a fake ticket,” Mellekas said. “There was no infraction ever issued to anyone that didn’t deserve an infraction or was alleged to have committed a violation. it still affected your data, which is disturbing to me and State Police in general.”
Some of those changes date back to 2018, when an internal affairs investigation was launched into four troopers. During the investigation, two of the state troopers accused of falsifying the data were separated from the Connecticut State Police in November 2018. The other two troopers who faked the data were disciplined in accordance with the Connecticut Labor Laws and police union contract.
The organizations have released seven recommendations as part of the plan of action. Connecticut State Police also released their responses for each recommendation.
Recommendation 1: The serious nature of submitting false or misleading traffic stop records can have consequences beyond the Alvin W. Penn law. Stare police should immediately reinforce all current troopers, constables and consequences under state law for those found to be inputting fictitious records to mislead management and the racial profiling data review system.
Response: Connecticut State Police issued a training bulletin to enforce accurate reporting of traffic stops. State police have referred the issues detailed in the CTRP3 audit to the Chief’s State Attorney for investigation. After the investigation is complete, the Connecticut State Police Internal Affairs Division will conduct its own investigation. The potential consequences of submitting fictitious records have been detailed in the Connecticut State Police Administrative and Operations manual.
Recommendation 2: Timely supervisory review of records submitted by troopers is key to assuring the accuracy of traffic stop records. The expectations for troop commanders and supervisory staff must be reviewed regarding the importance of record accuracy for all under their supervision. Supervisors must ensure all personnel meets agency standards for accurate reporting.
Response: State police said as a result of the recommendations supervisors have now implemented a monthly review of traffic stops in the NexGen system to ensure compliance with the reporting of data.
Recommendation 3: An independent record of all traffic stops communicated to dispatch should be retained in the dispatch log.
Response: State police said they agree with the recommendation and are working with a technology vendor to confirm the NexGen computer-aided dispatch and records management systems can be modified to implement it.
Recommendation 4: Connecticut State Police command staff should reevaluate how case numbers are issued.
Response: State police said proper reviews by supervisors pursuant to recommendation way to ensure compliance and accuracy of data reported. State police said staff is available to discuss the recommendation further with CTRP3.
Recommendation 5: Whenever troopers or constables enter a traffic stop into the system it results in an infraction, the infraction ticket number part of the data entered into the NexGen system.
Response: State police are implementing the recommendation, which requires technological changes to the NexGen system. Once the changer is implemented all sworn personnel will receive updated training to include the infraction number with their reports.
Recommendation 6: Provide clear guidance and training to troopers regarding the property reporting of stops made involving a commercial vehicle.
Response: Connecticut State Police are working with the technology vendor to ensure NexGen requires competition of bias-based profiling data for commercial vehicle stops.
Recommendation 7: The advisory board should consider having CTRP3 staff consider an annual audit of Connecticut State Police data for the next three calendar years.
Response: State police said they appreciate the assistance of the Racial Profiling Prohibition Project Advisory Board and will cooperate with yearly reviews regarding racial profiling data. State police will also work alongside them to develop, evaluate and implement future recommendations.