State police sign
The Connecticut State Police Troop B barracks in Canaan next to Route 7. Credit: Alexanderstock23 / Shutterstock

Back in May, the NAACP issued a travel advisory for African Americans planning to visit to Florida. In part, the advisory reads, “Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals. Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.”

The advisory had the daughter of a friend concerned. They take an annual family trip to Florida and for the first time, their daughter didn’t want to go. She was afraid that something bad would happen to them in Florida based on the travel advisory.

We were able to convince her that the advisory was a result of educational policy changes, not threats of violence against African Americans. But the conversation got me thinking. If restricting access to Advanced Placement African American History is enough to get the NAACP to issue an advisory against Florida, then what needs to be said about our home state of Connecticut?

There are many examples of how Connecticut’s systems and governments “devalue … and marginalize … the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.” The most recent case is the growing scandal regarding Connecticut State Troopers falsifying their ticketing records. Initial reports indicated that troopers were logging more tickets to appear more productive and justify overtime.

But more digging showed that police were falsifying tickets in a database specifically set up to track racial disparities in how state troopers conduct traffic enforcement.

According to a Rolling Stone magazine report, troopers submitted at least 25,000 false infractions into the racial discrepancy database. That’s at least 10 false tickets a day during the seven-year audit period. Those tickets were often attributed to white drivers. Simultaneously, troopers did not report over 16,000 real tickets issued to African Americans and other people of color.

The result? According to the audit, “This analysis suggests that the demographics recorded in the unmatched and potentially fraudulent racial profiling records has most likely had a substantive and statistically significant impact on statistics and empirical tests related to the share of racial and ethnic minority motorists stopped.” In other words, the data is completely unreliable. What we did learn is that racism and profiling are so endemic to the State Police that a racial discrepancy database is necessary – if we could get the police to stop lying in their reporting.

This kind of behavior by law enforcement certainly qualifies Connecticut as hostile to African Americans and other people of color, if not openly so. Not only are African American drivers disproportionately ticketed, but the state police will lie about it – twice! – to make sure no one finds out. How can there be accountability and improvement regarding such a serious issue?

Pervasive, systemic racism compromises the quality of life for African Americans. That queasy feeling one gets when they’re pulled over? The heart racing, pulse-pounding and sweaty hands? The constant way one has to keep their head on a swivel to make sure no state troopers are around to make a stop for the most basic violation? That’s all stress, and medical research has shown time and again how stress impacts overall health. Stress and its long-term health impacts help explain the shocking discrepancies in life expectancy for Connecticut’s African American residents versus others. For people living in one predominately African American North End Hartford neighborhood, life expectancy is 68.9 years. That’s 15 years less than residents who live in predominately white West Hartford center, just five miles away.

No, state troopers falsifying traffic tickets does not explain a 15-year shorter life expectancy. But it is part of the explanation for a system that continues to over-police African Americans (and lie about it), segregate us in communities and schools, and provide us with fewer opportunities in general. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gets a lot of media coverage for his attacks on African American history because he’s running for president, so people are afraid of a state they don’t even live in. Meanwhile, life in the Deep North continues. When will the NAACP have something to say about that?

Jamil Ragland writes and lives in Hartford. You can read more of his writing at

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