Schmidt_Alex via shutterstock

An annual report examining the potential for racial profiling in traffic enforcement flagged fewer police departments for having statistical disparities in traffic stops, but authors say more work needs to be done to continue the trend.

The report completed by the Central Connecticut State University Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy examined more than 500,000 traffic stops made in Connecticut by municipal and state police in 2018. As part of its methodology, it compares the number of minority drivers who were stopped in daylight hours compared to the number stopped in twilight hours when officers could not easily see the driver.

The results showed two departments required further scrutiny: Bridgeport and State Police Troop K. Both departments will undergo additional study to determine what is driving the disparities, author Ken Barone, IMRP project manager, said.

Barone and the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project have looked at traffic stops throughout the state since 2012 to determine if more minority drivers are being targeted by police for enforcement action compared to non-minority drivers. In its earliest findings, the group highlighted about a dozen police departments as requiring more study based on the traffic data. In the report issued Tuesday, authors noted that for the second year in a row, fewer departments were flagged for statistical disparities in traffic stops and other traffic enforcement.

“We are making progress,” said Middlesex State’s Attorney Michael Gaylor who represents the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney on the advisory board. “It’s important to point out that progress could not be made without everyone working together.”

This year, the Bridgeport Police Department was identified as stopping minority drivers at a rate 1.2 times higher in daylight, than under the “veil of darkness” when it’s harder to tell the race of a motorist, the report concluded. However, that city’s data was found to be inconsistently reported as a result of a change in its record management system. The department will undergo a second review and be subject to a supplemental report after its 2019 data is studied.

Bridgeport police did not respond to a request for comment.

Troop K, which patrols the Colchester area, was flagged as stopping Hispanic drivers at a rate of 1.7 higher during the daylight when the race or ethnicity of the driver can be seen, according to the report.

The figures were based on data gathered before state Department of Emergency and Public Protection Commissioner James Rovella took over the agency which includes the state police. His office said the organization is taking the findings seriously.

“We are always looking for ways to improve our service and trust between the community and our state troopers,” said Brian Foley, assistant to Rovella. “The bottom line is if our community and our citizens feel there’s an issue, then certainly we have to recognize that. Our many state police troops are vastly different, and serve many populations throughout the state. We look forward to continued evaluation and conversation.”

Two other police departments, New Haven and Waterbury, were highlighted due to the rate in which they conduct searches during traffic stops. Minority drivers were the subject of searches more often, but police found contraband more frequently during searches of Caucasian drivers, the report concluded.

New Haven police found contraband during 51.7% of 60 searches involving Caucasian drivers, the data showed. At the same time, police searched black motorists’ vehicles nearly seven times more yet found contraband in just 20.9% of 416 searches. Police conducted 152 searches for Hispanic motorists and found contraband 42.1% of the time.

In Waterbury, officers found contraband in 48.5% of 103 searches for Caucasian drivers, data said. But the department found contraband in just 20% of 115 searches conducted for black motorists and 26.6% of 79 searches involving Hispanic drivers.

Minorities also were more likely to receive a written warning or some other type of enforcement action, the report said.

But overall, progress continues to be made in terms of Connecticut’s municipal and state police deciding to stop minorities, Barone said.

“For the second year in a row, we have not identified any significant disparities when looking at stops compared to the veil of darkness,” Barone said. “We are continuing to see improvement.”