A single state trooper logged 1,350 fraudulent traffic tickets into a Connecticut database meant to detect racial profiling. The finding is key to a damning new audit of the Connecticut State Police, which reveals pervasive trooper malfeasance, including at least 26,000 false tickets logged over seven years, that masked racial bias in the force’s policing. Now, the CSP refuses to discuss the audit — or even reveal if the most-prolific ticket faker still has a badge.
These fake tickets, to be clear, did not result in fines or court dates for Connecticut drivers. Under the law, state troopers are required to log tickets from their traffic stops into parallel systems: One that is connected to the state’s judicial branch, and triggers adjudication; and a second database that records the demographic data of stopped drivers, and is intended to expose — and, ideally, curb — bias in traffic enforcement.
There should be a one-to-one correspondence between the tickets logged into each system. But the audit uncovered that a total of 311 troopers had “significant discrepancies” in their record-keeping, which resulted in their collectively logging tens of thousands of phantom citations into the racial database that did not appear in the judicial records.
These fake tickets undermined the integrity of the system. The faux records were disproportionately listed as having been issued to white drivers, over-representing that group’s share of stops. And this wasn’t the only illicit practice skewing the data. The audit also revealed that more than 500 CSP troopers failed to log 16,000 actual traffic tickets into the racial profiling system. These unreported tickets disproportionately were issued to drivers of color. The failure to record these stops in the racial profiling database, auditors describe, was a violation of state law.
In combination, the improper logging of traffic stops made the CSP’s enforcement appear less racially biased than it is in reality. The audit insists that the troopers’ manipulations created a “substantive and statistically significant impact” on the data, distorting the state’s understanding of the “share of racial and ethnic minority motorists stopped.”
These findings have drawn a sharp rebuke of CSP by civil liberty groups. “This audit reveals a breathtaking disrespect for the state’s racial profiling prohibition law,” said Claudine Constant, public policy director for the ACLU of Connecticut. “Police have obscured the true information about how often they stop divers of color compared to white drivers.”
The state government initiated the audit of CSP after a startling 2022 Hearst Connecticut Media report revealed that four state troopers had logged more than 1,000 combined fake citations into a database used to track racism in traffic stops.
Amid policy makers’ concerns that the practice could be widespread, the new audit reveals that the fraud went beyond the four bad officers — nearly one-in-four troopers had recorded fake tickets. And the audit’s eye-popping estimate is almost certainly conservative: The audit states that the “number of false records is likely larger,” and reveals a high-end range of close to 60,000 fake citations.
Matthew Ross, a professor at Northeastern, was one of the lead authors of the audit. He tells Rolling Stone it’s difficult to isolate the motivation of the individual officers. Ross believes that many of the fake tickets were logged by officers who were either seeking to pad their stats, or to cover for “shirking” on the job. From his examination of the data, Ross believes CSP troopers may have disproportionately attributed their fake tickets to “white” motorists out of laziness — because that was the first option on the computer dropdown menu used to record a stop. Likewise the fake stops were disproportionately reported to have occurred at midnight — the first available time option. “Basically, they were going through and checking the first box, and not really putting in any information,” Ross says.
However the auditor is far more troubled by the thousands of tickets, representing real citations — disproportionately issued to drivers of color — that did not get logged in the racial database. “It’s hard to think of a reason for doing that,” Ross says, “other than not wanting to report certain stops to the racial profiling system.”
Auditors were not given individual names of troopers, rather code numbers that CSP alone can match to individual badge numbers. However the report identifies a single rogue trooper, based out of Bridgeport, who was responsible for 1,350 fake tickets from 2014 to 2017. That total accounted for “83% of this trooper’s infraction records” and more than five percent of the CSP’s fraudulent ticketing overall.
Is this individual still with the force? Or are they now collecting a state pension? CSP refuses to discuss the matter citing ongoing investigations. The office of Gov. Ned Lamont likewise would not provide any details about the trooper, encouraging this reporter to file a freedom of information request instead.
“I am positive that they know who that individual is,” Ross says of CSP. “I’m not sure what they intend to do about it.”
In the initial wake of the audit, Lamont vowed that the state government would mount an “independent” investigation of CSP that would “get to the bottom” of the scandal. However the investigation has now been handed off to the office of the Chief State’s Attorney, who has, in turn, reportedly folded it into an existing investigation handled jointly with CSP. The Chief State Attorney’s office did not respond to questions from Rolling Stone.
Pressed on the conflict of interest posed by CSP helping to investigate documented malfeasance affecting up to a quarter of its troopers, a spokesperson for Lamont insisted: “We have faith in the independence of the Chief State Attorney’s office.” He added: “We also reserve the right to take any additional action we think necessary.”
CSP has a track record of sweeping trooper wrongdoing under the rug. Despite allegations that the four officers in the original fake-ticket scandal exposed by Hearst in 2022 had engaged in criminal activity by falsifying records, two received short suspensions, and the two others, the audit notes, “retired before any disciplinary action was taken.”
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