HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont said today that the results of an investigation of state police traffic stops had put to rest concerns that large numbers of troopers had falsified reporting for traffic stops.
“There was no effort at all, no intentionality to try and skew the racial profiling analysis,” Lamont said at a press conference on Thursday.
The investigation was launched by Lamont in 2023 in response to a news report by Hearst Connecticut Media showing that four state police officers assigned to Troop E in Montville had falsified hundreds of traffic tickets, creating “ghost stops” in an apparent effort to make themselves appear more productive.
After the news report was published, the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project, led by Ken Barone, analyzed more than 800,000 infractions submitted between 2014 and 2021, and identified 26,000 traffic stops entered into the database between 2014 and 2021 that the researchers were unable to corroborate. The disparity appeared to inflate the number of White drivers stopped while minimizing the number of Hispanic and Black drivers stopped, skewing data that is used to identify racial bias.
The Alvin W. Penn Law, passed in 2013, prohibits a police officer from stopping or searching someone based on their race, ethnicity, age, gender or sexual orientation. Part of that law requires police officers to record those characteristics each time they pull a car over for a traffic violation.
But while the results of the investigation concluded that there was no widespread effort to skew traffic data, it did find that State Police had failed to respond to the inaccurate entry of racial profiling data by four officers in 2018 and ignored indications that there might be a larger problem with the accuracy of the racial profiling data system.
The investigation also highlighted a failure to adequately train State Troopers and to use adequate data entry procedures.
Former United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut Deirdre M. Daly led the formal investigation in conjunction with the law firm Finn, Dixon and Herling.
Most officers cleared
After reviewing internal emails and conducting interviews with the officers, the investigators found no evidence to support allegations against the vast majority of State Police who had been flagged for potentially falsifying traffic data.
“Our investigation found that 74 of the 81 active Troopers and Constables identified in the Audit process are not likely to have engaged in intentional misconduct,” the report concluded. “Moreover, we found no evidence that any Trooper or Constable engaged in conduct with the intention of skewing racial profiling data, or of concealing their own racial profiling.”
The investigation attributed the discrepancies instead to carelessness, a lack of training on data-entry, miscommunication, and technological malfunctions.
Lamont said the system that Troopers had used ten years ago to enter racial profiling data was “jerry-rigged” and that he believed that updating the technology had addressed a lot of the problems.
“A lot of this was manually inputted. They didn’t have the terminals in the cars. The Colonel tells me that we now have terminals in all the troopers’ cars, so this can all be done electronically. It doesn’t necessarily require the double input — the manual writing it down while you’re standing next to a highway at high speeds,” said Lamont. “It has cleaned up a lot of the discrepancies over the last five to 10 years.”
‘The most important sentence in the entire report’
Andy Matthews, executive director and staff attorney for the CT State Police Union, called the report a vindication of the State Police.
Pointing to one conclusion in the report, that “the implication … that as many as 130 Troopers and Constables may have engaged in intentional falsification of traffic stop data is not supported by the evidence,” Matthews said that the initial analysis released by the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project had unfairly, and irreparably, damaged the image of the State Police.
“We feel … there’s been some irreparable harm to the name and the image of the State Police,” said Matthews in a call with CT Examiner. “That [initial] audit report came out prematurely. We’ve said that from the beginning.”
He called the line clearing the State Police of widespread and intentional falsification of data “the most important sentence in that entire report.”
Matthews also underscored the role of inadequate technology, rather than malfeasance, for the discrepancies in the data.
“When you don’t give people the proper equipment, how do you hold them responsible for calling in traffic stops and giving racial profiling data that they’re not entering?” he told CT Examiner.
But Matthews said he had confidence in State Police Commissioner Ronnell Higgins and Colonel Daniel Loughman to move the state police “in a positive direction” — including obtaining funding from the state legislature for the necessary equipment for the police cruisers.
‘Significant’ inaccuracies confirmed, says Barone
Barone, who also serves as associate director of the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy at UConn, said in a statement that the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project had been tasked with identifying unmatched recording, not assigning motive. Barone noted that the results of Daly’s investigation confirmed “significant” inaccuracies in the data submitted by the state troopers.
In a call with CT Examiner, Judiciary Committee co-chair Gary Winfield said he was glad to have the report, but that there were parts of the investigation that seemed strange to him.
He pointed to a section in the report noting that officers were entering racial profile data linked to a traffic stop when what they had actually issued was a parking ticket.
“There’s either a major issue with training, adherence to training or understanding of the training,” Winfield told CT Examiner.
As for improving training, at today’s press conference Higgins said the State Police had already begun implementing some of the recommendations in Daly’s investigation, including ongoing audits of racial profiling data and training supervisors and troopers on the importance of reporting that data.
“That data is relied upon by advocates, by public officials, by elected officials. It is important for decision makers to be able to rely upon that data, and we’re going to improve upon our processes,” said Higgins.
Seven State Police singled out
Of the seven remaining State Police Employees who are suspected to have engaged in misconduct, one was determined to have entered verbal warnings as infractions in order to boost his productivity. This officer is currently assigned to desk duty. The other six have been referred to the State Police for an Internal Affairs investigation and are on “modified administrative duty,” rather than patrolling the roads.
Higgins echoed Lamont’s assertion that there was no widespread intent to falsify the racial data, but he said he was disturbed by the thought that any officers might have been knowingly entering incorrect data.
“The fact that even one trooper, one trooper has been referred to Internal Affairs Investigation for potential falsification of traffic stop data is troubling to me and is troubling to all the troopers who are out there doing their work each and every day,” said Higgins. “I won’t tolerate it. It’s as simple as that.”
Higgins said that Loughman had assembled a team of investigators with experience in both internal affairs and criminal investigations, and that they would investigate “a range of charges.” If they are found to have falsified data, Higgins said, they could be fired and decertified.
‘Unable to make findings’
The investigation also found that 32 of the 49 retired Troopers investigated were unlikely to have falsified traffic stop data knowingly. The report was “unable to make findings” about 14 retired Troopers. The Troopers, who are no longer employed by the State police, were not required to cooperate with the investigation.
Barone told CT Examiner that retired State Police Troopers were still cause for concern, given that many were linked to the greatest number of discrepancies, and could still be working for local police departments.
“The top 20 or 25 people that we identified with the most significant discrepancies all retired in the last few years,” Barone told CT Examiner. “Are we doing anything about them, particularly if they’re local cops now? Is there an obligation to do something about that?”
At the press conference, Higgins said that retired police officers fell outside of his jurisdiction, but that he would continue to review the report and meet with experts to discuss the best way forward.
Lamont said he intended to hire an independent compliance officer to oversee the department for the next six months, on Daly’s recommendation. He said he would also ask the legislature to approve a measure that would expand the possible punishment for troopers who falsified data to extend beyond decertification.
“I have as much confidence in my state police today as I ever have,” said Lamont. “I think this shows that if there were problems, they’re almost all unintentional, and that we’re going to do everything we can to support our state police — starting with the I.T. and the guidance and the training they need to make sure they have the tools they need to get the job done.”