Two legislative committees have scheduled a hearing next week to question State Police officials on the results of an audit which suggested that troopers likely submitted tens of thousands of falsified traffic records to a state panel on racial profiling trends.
The Judiciary and Public Safety and Security Committees will meet in Hartford on July 26 to discuss a possible legislative response to the findings of an audit released by the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project in June.
The audit 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.
Sen. Gary Winfield, a New Haven Democrat who co-chairs the Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday the joint panel planned to hear from Ken Barone, the report’s co-author, as well as officials from the State Police.
“This is not just about criminal activity, although that is potentially part of it, this is also about management, the culture and all of that,” Winfield said. “I think that’s a good place for legislative committees that might have oversight to step in.”
The legislative meeting was announced by Sen. Herron Gaston, a Bridgeport Democrat who co-chairs the Public Safety and Security Committee. In a statement posted Monday on his Facebook page, Gaston said he would work to ensure that drivers in Connecticut receive equal protection under the law.
“I will make it my mission to ensure equity and fairness for all Connecticut drivers behind the wheel,” Gaston said. “This audit presents a real challenge for our state, and my colleagues and I will work to find a solution.”
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’s authors stressed that they did not attempt to determine whether the errors were intentional, the report suggests that the systemic misreporting of infractions have distorted efforts to identify racial profiling trends in Connecticut.
For instance, auditors found no records of some infractions that police reported issuing against white drivers. In other instances, auditors found records of infractions against non-white drivers which police did not report issuing.
After the results came to light last month, Gov. Ned Lamont said his administration would conduct an independent investigation of the findings. State Police officials said they would also investigate the issue and consult with prosecutors if they found criminality on the part of their own troopers.
On Tuesday, Winfield, a member of the Racial Profiling Prohibition Project Advisory Board, said lawmakers at next week’s meeting would be listening and weighing the potential for future legislation in response to the falsified traffic tickets.
After years of working on police accountability issues, Winfield was not surprised by the results of the audit. Others were surprised because “we always imagine that it’s not us,” he said.
“We weren’t Connecticut — the people who falsify traffic data — until we were. That’s why the work that we do on getting this stuff right is so important,” he said. “It’s not because you’re going after the police or whomever it is, it’s because you’re aware that you can always do better and you endeavor to do that.”