Connecticut State Police Now Being Investigated By The DOJ For Falsifying Traffic Stop Demographic Data
from the in-deep-now dept
Late last month, a report was released showing Connecticut State troopers were routinely faking stop data to avoid further scrutiny over biased policing efforts. According to the state governor’s own statements, it appeared clear “hundreds” of troopers faked “tens of thousands” of traffic stops in order to make it look like they weren’t just targeting minorities with pretextual stops.
Of course, the state governor, Ned Lamont, couched his damning appraisal with apologies on behalf of the Connecticut State Police, despite having no real reason to do so:
“I wouldn’t jump to conclusions,” said Lamont, who became governor in 2019, a few months after state police found four troopers had been fabricating tickets. “There’s no indication that was purposeful. A lot of it may have been inadvertent. We’ve got to look into that.”
That being said (badly), Governor Lamont also commissioned an “independent” review of this data, despite the fact the data had already been independently reviewed by the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project using information gleaned from public records requests. Presumably, Governor Lamont feels there’s another “independent” option out there that will shift the narrative back in the favor of the State Police, as well as his unasked-for apology on the agency’s behalf.
That possibly explains why he brought in a prosecutor to do an independent reviewer’s job.
The Office of Governor Lamont has engaged former United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut Deirdre M. Daly, an attorney at Finn Dixon and Herling LLP, to conduct the investigation. Ms. Daly and her team will interview troopers, constables, and others who may have relevant information. Anyone wishing to contact Ms. Daly may do so confidentially by filling out the form online at fdh.com/confidentialform or calling 800-711-6348. At the conclusion of the investigation, the results will be shared with the public.
“I have ordered a comprehensive and independent investigation of possible misconduct by the Connecticut State Police based on the information brought to light by the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project,” Governor Lamont said. “I have great faith in the overwhelming majority of our 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. I am glad that someone with Deirdre Daly’s experience and credibility has agreed to undertake this important work.”
That might have seemed like an easy way to unruffle the feathers of both the public and State Police. But whatever Governor Lamont might have hoped to gain from hiring a prosecutor to examine cops is now in danger of being rendered meaningless. Sure, the DOJ is home to plenty of prosecutors, but it’s also (under its new executive governance) capable of uncovering (and documenting) the malfeasance local law enforcement officers wish to keep hidden.
The U.S. Department of Justice has taken over an investigation into allegations that hundreds of Connecticut state troopers may have submitted false information on thousands of traffic infractions to a racial profiling board, data that made it appear police were pulling over more white drivers than they were, the state’s top prosecutor said.
Did I say competing narratives? That’s no longer an issue. The DOJ’s entrance into this particular fray has resulted in a forfeit from the governor’s preferred “independent” investigator.
Chief State’s Attorney Patrick Griffin told WTNH-TV on Thursday that the DOJ asked his office to suspend its investigation, which was ordered by Gov. Ned Lamont, because it is doing its own probe.
“I agreed with that decision,” Griffin said in a taping for the station’s weekend news show “This Week in Connecticut.”
The US DOJ has no reason to curry favor with Lamont or the State Police. In fact, it has no other obligation than to itself: the Civil Rights division of the department. Facts matter, and the DOJ does a pretty good job uncovering facts, even if its proposed remedies are often ignored and, just as often, unenforceable.
And there’s now a new wrinkle in the Case of the Thousands of Faked Traffic Stops. The union representing state troopers has rescinded its support of current State Police leaders now that it’s facing a DOJ investigation.
Leadership of the state police union voted no confidence Thursday in the agency’s top two commanders in yet another sign of union displeasure with the agency’s response to an investigation of how and why troopers were able to write tens of thousands of phony traffic tickets.
The union leadership said in a blistering statement that it no longer has confidence in public safety Commissioner James Rovella and state police commander Col. Stavros Mellekas. It followed by two weeks a no confidence vote by the state police captains and lieutenants union in Rovella alone. The entire union voted no confidence in Rovella in 2020, long before the ticket scandal was news.
For once, the union is on the side of laws that protect state residents, rather than the troopers who apparently generated nearly 25,000 fake traffic stops to muddy demographic data.
In a letter to Rovella following the union leadership vote, [Union president Todd] Fedigan wrote that the agency’s top two commanders “stood by idly, as you allowed others to publicly make false allegations, destroy the morale of our Troopers, and dismantle the reputation of the State Police. How could anyone work for a Commissioner and Colonel who choose their own survival over standing up for due process and the good men and women that risk their lives for the State of Connecticut?”
The letter accompanying the vote of no confidence says the State Police covered this up for five years, during which it only briefly suspended four troopers suspected of falsifying data. That suggests the law enforcement agency was more than happy to leverage falsified data to cover up its failures and rights violations, extending this tacit blessing of misconduct to dozens of troopers who responded by generating tens of thousands of fake traffic stop records.
But if it sounds like the police union actually cares about police misconduct, prepare to set your phasers to not-stunned-at-all-actually. The union may still want to badmouth those on top, but it’s equally willing to protect those who abused the process from public scrutiny.
The Connecticut State Police Union filed a lawsuit Thursday in an effort to block the release of troopers’ names in a fake ticket probe.
In the injunction, the state police union said some troopers “have already been falsely accused” and the release of their names “will create an increase of public’s mistrust and confidence” of the State Police” in police.
The lawsuit goes on to say that the public’s anger “could result in serious physical harm to troopers or their families.”
LOL. Notably, the union isn’t asking the court to release the names of those correctly accused of falsifying traffic stop records. Instead, it’s asking for a blanket injunction forbidding any trooper involved in this debacle from being publicly named. If the union truly cared to turn the “mistrust and confidence” tide, it would assert publicly (and in public filings) it willingness to name and shame those who lied to the public by falsifying (yet another form of) public records.
But the union isn’t willing to out the bad and protect the falsely accused. It just wants the public to remain in as much darkness as possible during multiple investigations.
This will all end badly for the State Police. The facts will continue to come out. There’s a real possibility of a consent decree being handed down. But, if cop shops have shown us nothing else over the years, bad cops always outlast good cops and independent oversight. The State Police should take this opportunity to turn this agency around. Unfortunately, the most likely response will be to turn something else around: circling the wagons until the attention of journalists and legislators is focused on something else.