When you get pulled over for a traffic offense, you enter into a pretty straightforward process that either ends with paying a fine and taking points on your license or going to court and potentially having the ticket dismissed. What you might not know is that you also become a statistic at that point, as states track information on who gets pulled over, including their race. Connecticut tracks that information, too, but some of its state police units are being investigated for falsifying thousands of records, obscuring the actual statistics on race and profiling.
The Drive and several other publications outlined the story, which involves thousands of records from between 2014 and 2021. It’s unclear whether the tickets were falsified intentionally, or if it was a mistake. If done intentionally, the motives behind the actions are unknown. The effects are known, however, as the falsified records painted the picture that white drivers were pulled over at a far greater rate than other drivers, which may or may not be accurate.
The state’s racial profiling oversight board performed an audit, after a report from Hearst Connecticut Media from 2022 that found four Connecticut state troopers had falsified tickets to inflate their productivity numbers. Data analysts have so far confirmed at least 25,966 falsified records, but the actual number could be more than twice that amount. They were able to piece the story together by reviewing the falsified tickets against court records, finding that the faked citations lacked a corresponding court date.
An internal investigation led to brief suspensions for two officers, while two others chose to retire before the audit was completed.
Now an independent investigation will be conducted by an outside law firm, and led by a former U.S. attorney. Troopers will be interviewed in the process.
“I have issued an order today to all state troopers instructing them to cooperate with the investigation and come forth with relevant information,” Connecticut State Police Colonel Stavros Mellekas said in a statement. “The Connecticut State Police takes this matter very seriously and we have already instituted several reforms based on the recently released audit. We look forward to continuing that work. We welcome this investigation and will cooperate fully.”
Lamont said he has “great faith in the overwhelming majority of our troopers.”
If there’s any upside to the story at all, it’s that the number of faked records has decreased since its peak in 2014.
Forging records is a felony offense, so there could be real legal consequences for the people involved, whether they meant to game the system or not.