Officials with the Connecticut State Police Union railed Wednesday against the methodology of an audit, which found tens of thousands of misreported traffic records, and what they described as unfair media coverage of the resulting scandal.
Standing outside the state Capitol building in Hartford, Andrew Matthews, the union’s general counsel and executive director, said that coverage of a June audit by the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project had wrongly assumed misconduct by around 130 troopers who had been flagged for discrepancies in statistics submitted to the racial profiling board.
“In our world, you’re innocent until proven guilty but not in this world we live in today, that’s the truth,” Matthews said.
The early afternoon press conference was the latest development in the ongoing controversy that has sparked a number of state and federal inquiries including a criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The board’s audit concluded that years of racial profiling data had been skewed by misreported statistics including a “high likelihood” that state troopers had falsified reporting to the board in at least 25,966 instances.
Although auditors said that as many as 311 troopers had more than eight record discrepancies in any year of the report, state police officials told lawmakers in July they were looking at 130 current and former troopers in an internal probe of the issue.
On Wednesday, Matthews said that 27 of those troopers had since been exonerated of wrongdoing. Ken Barone, the report’s co-author and associate director of the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy, later provided a different number, telling reporters that 17 troopers had been removed from the list as a result of discrepancies involving badge numbers being assigned to more than one trooper.
Nevertheless, Matthews critiqued both the audit’s methodology, which he said failed to account for considerations like cases where troopers rely on dispatchers to submit citation data, and reporting on the issue, which he said assumed the guilt of law enforcement officials and had led to at least one death threat from the public.
“This is dangerous stuff,” he said.
In particular, Matthews pushed back against reports finding that the union’s leadership was among those troopers flagged in the audit. Last week, the CT Mirror reported that Matthews had the second most number of underreported infractions between 2014 and 2021.
“When you interview with the press and you tell them facts that could exonerate troopers or explain why they might be on Mr. Barone’s audit list of 130, they don’t print that,” Matthews said. “That’s why we called this press conference today, because they can’t continue to mislead the public.”
Barone, who answered media questions later Wednesday afternoon from the University of Connecticut’s Hartford campus, said he took issue with suggestions that the audit was rushed or that its authors did not listen to input from the state police before publishing their report.
Over the course of nine months, the report’s authors attempted to listen to the concerns of state police officials and account for the many reasons they suggest could have contributed to the misreporting of traffic ticket data, Barone said.
Throughout the process, he said they erred on the side of giving troopers the benefit of the doubt.
“Our motto during this audit — there’s a research team of seven individuals — ‘When in doubt, give them credit,” Barone said. “I think it’s important for the public to understand how much care and diligence went into this and how much we tried to consider.”
Barone said members of the racial profiling board were accustomed to police officials questioning their methodology.
“We’ve been here before and I actually think in some regards it’s fair,” he said. “People should question. There’s a reason why we put our work out there. We try and show our work. We treat this like we treat a middle school math problem. Meaning, we’re going to tell you the conclusion but we’re going to show you how we got there and you can disagree.”
In addition to the DOJ investigation, a separate investigation into the matter is underway at the U.S. Department of Transportation. Meanwhile, Gov. Ned Lamont has asked former U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut Deirdre M. Daly to lead an investigation into how the false records came to be submitted and how similar events can be prevented in the future.
On Wednesday, the governor’s chief spokesman, Adam Joseph, said Lamont welcomed all outside investigations by law enforcement.
“Governor Lamont has great faith in the overwhelming majority of our state troopers, and to protect public confidence in them we must get to the bottom of this and learn how it happened, why it happened, and how to prevent it from ever happening again,” Joseph said.