An audit released Wednesday on eight years of data reported by the Connecticut State Police concluded that troopers likely falsified tens of thousands of records of traffic tickets and distorted analysis meant to identify racial profiling trends.
“This report suggests a historical pattern and practice among some troopers and constables of submitting infraction records that were likely false or inaccurate to the racial profiling system,” the 78-page audit said.
The report, which was discussed during a morning meeting of the Racial Profiling Prohibition Advisory Board, reviewed data from the police agency between 2014 and 2021 and found at least 25,966 instances where troopers reported issuing tickets that had no corresponding records in the state Centralized Infractions Bureau.
“Significant errors” in thousands of other records suggest that the number of inaccurate infraction reports could be as high as 58,553, the audit found.
Police agencies are required to submit traffic stop data to the group, which studies the information and reports on evidence of racial profiling.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Ken Barone, the report’s co-author and associate director of the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy, stressed that the audit did not attempt to determine whether the misreporting was intentional.
However, Barone said the findings had an impact on the group’s previous racial profiling studies because the audit found that police had more often reported issuing infractions for which there were no records against white drivers. Meanwhile, infractions that were issued but not reported to the racial profiling system were less likely to be against white drivers.
“Just to be clear, previous studies were generally identifying racial and ethnic disparities in the State Police data,” he said. “What our audit told us is that we believe the disparities would have been greater if data was accurately reported.”
The audit was set in motion by a Hearst Connecticut Media story, which last year reported that state police had investigated four troopers in 2018 for falsifying records of traffic tickets. Auditors found that as many as 311 of the 1,301 troopers reviewed had more than eight unmatched records in any of the years covered by the report.
Although the audit tracked over-reporting in each of the years it reviewed, there were more inaccuracies in the years prior to the 2018 investigation.
During Wednesday’s meeting, State Police Colonel Stavros Mellekas said his agency would investigate whether troopers were falsifying records and consult with state prosecutors if investigators found criminality.
Mellekas pointed to the drop in unsubstantiated records since 2018.
“As you can see in your report, it’s come down from ‘15, ‘16 all the way down to where we are at ‘21,” he said. “Now 0 would be perfect. That’s what we’d like. We’re not there yet. We want to get there and hold anyone that’s outside responsible.”
Asked about the audit during an unrelated press conference on Wednesday, Gov. Ned Lamont said his administration would conduct an independent investigation of the issue. He told a reporter that it was too soon to “jump to any conclusions.”
“There’s no indication it was purposeful. A lot of it may have been inadvertent. We gotta look into that. We’re doing an independent investigation of that,” Lamont said, noting the decline of misreported tickets identified in the report. “Still, the integrity of our police is paramount and we gotta make sure people have confidence.”
In a press release, Claudine Constant, public policy and advocacy director of the Connecticut ACLU, said the audit revealed a “breathtaking disrespect” for state policies meant to curtail racial profiling.
“Police cannot police themselves,” Constant said. “We urge swift and transparent accountability for all individual Connecticut State Police employees who falsified traffic stop records, and this report also requires system-wide accountability for the Connecticut State Police.”