“This was not a witch hunt on our part. This was a necessary step to inform our advisory board as to what problems, if any, we had encountered in the system.”

That is how James Fazzalaro, Senior Policy Analyst for the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project, addressed a joint meeting of the state legislature’s Judiciary and Public Safety and Security Committees. 

Legislators convened the informational session to gain a better understanding of a recent report which showed that troopers with the Connecticut State Police had falsified more 26,000 traffic stop reports. While no actual tickets were issued to drivers, the false reports likely skewed state racial profiling data.

The majority of Wednesday’s meeting saw Ken Barone, Associate Director at The University of Connecticut’s Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy and co-author of the report, outlining their methodology and findings. During that time, he stressed that their methodology was extremely conservative, ruling out a large number of potentially falsified records to account for a variety of human errors.

It was even more conservative than a State Police internal investigation into similarly falsified records that was highlighted in a 2022 story from Heart Media. That 2018 investigation found hundreds of falsified records during an eight-month period. The UConn study’s parameters, however, found a fraction of that number from those same officers in a much longer period.

“We worked really hard as a project staff and as researchers to try to ensure that we were fair that we let the data drive the conversation and that again, when in doubt, we could make a connection, we made a connection,” Barone explained while stressing that he believes further and much more strenuous investigation is warranted.

Still, Barone noted that his team ran the data they collected 20 times and found the exact same patterns emerged each time. Barone also stressed that the report did not assume any motivations for those falsified records and they could not state with complete certainty whether there was any intentional wrongdoing.

Representatives for the State Police, led by James Rovella, Commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services for the state, said that the report was very concerning. Rovella specifically, committed to a much more focused internal investigation to identify those troopers who falsified reports and hold them accountable for their actions. He also committed to disciplining those further up the chain of command who allowed those falsifications to occur. 

“I learned through the city that public trust takes time to build and almost moments to fracture,” he said during his statements.

Even still, Rovella argued that some of the findings in the report did not take into account other factors such as a trooper’s length of service. He stated that some of the names identified by the research team represented newly commissioned officers and should be removed.

Rovella, however, might have trouble carrying out his plans. Also on Wednesday, the Connecticut State Police Commissioned Officers Association announced that the Connecticut State Police Lieutenants and Captains Union had held a vote of No Confidence in Rovella and his leadership.

“Since he has taken charge, the agency has never been embroiled in so much controversy,” the Commissioned Officers Association said in a statement. “These issues are constant, widespread, and by no means limited to the ticket controversy. Our concerns and expertise as members of command staff are purposefully ignored. Commissioner Rovella has also failed to speak up against misrepresentations in the traffic stop data audit report and communicate clearly to the public the numerous inconsistencies and flaws within the report’s findings.”

Governor Ned Lamont earlier this week announced that he would take Barone’s advice to conduct a more strenuous investigation into the findings. He has asked former United States District Attorney Deirdre M. Daly to lead that investigation. Rovella and State Police Colonel Stavros Mellekas agreed with the decision and have committed to cooperating with Daly.

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An Emmy and AP award-winning journalist, Tricia has spent more than a decade working in digital and broadcast media. She has covered everything from government corruption to science and space to entertainment...

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