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More than 70 Conn. troopers cleared of misconduct after report finds tickets were not intentionally falsified

An independent review was conducted after a 2018 report claimed more than 100 troopers had falsified racial profiling data; the review found most “falsified” records were unintentional errors

Report into CT State Police fake traffic tickets scandal released. What the probe found

“We conclude that this suggestion is not supported by the evidence,” the report states. “Rather, our investigation found that 74 of the 81 active troopers and constables identified in the audit process are not likely to have engaged in intentional misconduct. Moreover, we found no evidence that any trooper or constable engaged in conduct with the intention of skewing racial profiling data, or of concealing their own racial profiling.”

Connecticut State Police via Facebook

By Christopher Keating
Hartford Courant

HARTFORD — A highly detailed report following an independent investigation states that the Connecticut State Police ticket controversy was largely a problem of sloppy record-keeping, mistakes, and lack of training — and not intentional misconduct.

The report, compiled by the former top federal prosecutor in Connecticut, showed that the vast majority of troopers had not intentionally falsified any traffic records.

“We conclude that this suggestion is not supported by the evidence,” the report states. “Rather, our investigation found that 74 of the 81 active troopers and constables identified in the audit process are not likely to have engaged in intentional misconduct. Moreover, we found no evidence that any trooper or constable engaged in conduct with the intention of skewing racial profiling data, or of concealing their own racial profiling.”

A team of four, headed by former U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly, spent seven months looking into the issue that has generated headlines around the state. The issue had exploded into controversy, leading to a public hearing at the state Capitol complex and the eventual resignation last year of the state police commissioner.

But the troopers’ union said throughout the investigation that many of the errors were the result of data entry problems and were not the result of widespread misconduct. They cautioned state legislators, who held a high-profile hearing in July 2023, to avoid making any snap conclusions in a rush to judgment.

“I think there’s vindication,” said Andrew Matthews, a retired sergeant and attorney who serves as executive director of the troopers’ union. “The people in Connecticut deserve better. It was not a systemic, widespread corruption in the state police. … It destroyed the reputation of the state police.”

Police have complained that morale has plummeted among troopers as they came under scrutiny regarding the ticket scandal. No motorists received any phony tickets, but troopers were scrutinized for inflating the number of tickets to show supervisors of their productivity in an attempt to receive promotions, overtime, and an unmarked Dodge Charger – a better police car with a powerful engine that can reach high speeds.

Todd Fedigan, president of the troopers’ union, said troopers had been operating under a cloud that as many as 130 troopers had been implicated in an initial audit that he said was rushed. That total included 68 who are still active and 62 who have since retired.

“We’ve been living this for eight months,” Fedigan told reporters after a news conference by Gov. Ned Lamont and state police brass. “From the onset, this was a sloppy report. … It came out with a narrative that there were possibly 130 troopers that were skewing racial profiling. I thank the governor for doing an independent investigation because we called for it [last year]. This was sloppy in that on Day One, they eliminated 26 troopers immediately because of duplicate badge numbers. I wouldn’t be proud of putting out a work product that immediately eliminates 26 out of the 130.”

Fedigan was referring to the practice of giving badge numbers to rookie officers after retirements – meaning that some of the ticket numbers were inflated because they were actually written by two different troopers at different times. As a result, some troopers were flagged for tickets that they did not write, officials said.

“This is validation that this was blown out of proportion from the start,” Fedigan said.

While many troopers were exonerated, six troopers and one constable have been referred to the state police internal affairs unit for an investigation into “potential falsification of traffic stop data,” said Ronnell Higgins, the new state police commissioner. The troopers have been taken off traffic duty and have been placed on “modified administrative duty” at full pay, he said. Their names were not released Thursday.

Any trooper found guilty of intentionally falsifying data will be disciplined, up to and including firing, he said.

“I won’t tolerate it,” Higgins told reporters at the state Capitol in Hartford . “It’s as simple as that. I will not tolerate it.”

Lamont, who stood with Higgins at the news conference, said, “There was no effort or intentionality to try to skew the racial profiling analysis. … There were discrepancies, but not falsifications, not intentional.”

The original audit was overseen by Kenneth Barone, a longtime researcher who has studied police traffic stops for years.

“The main goal of the advisory board’s audit was to ensure the accuracy of Connecticut State Police racial profiling data in the wake of public reporting identifying troopers found to have submitted false records to the racial profiling system,” Barone said Thursday. “Attorney Daly’s report confirms ‘the inaccuracies in the data are significant’ and outlines remedial measures that should be taken ‘to ensure the accuracy and reliability’ moving forward. As we stated in our report, it was beyond our scope to determine whether unmatched records were intentionally falsified, a result of carelessness, or human error.”

While Higgins said he did not have a problem with Barone’s methodology, union officials blasted the original audit.

“Ken Barone’s report caused irreparable harm to the state police and to the men and women of the state police that do the job,” Matthews said. “We’ll be the first ones to say it. The politicians can’t say it – we question the methodology.”

Barone, though, told The Courant that he had given the data to the state police brass in September 2022 and then gave them a draft report in April 2023. When he gave the state police a chance to provide a written response that would be included in the original audit, the police declined, he said. But Barone said he did not know what data or information that the brass had given to the union.

“They have never articulated what their problem is with the methodology,” Barone said of the union. “We showed our work. You could take our report and all the underlying data and replicate it. … I haven’t seen any evidence that has caused us to question our methodology or has caused us to alter our conclusions.”

State legislators

Both Democratic and Republican legislators have been deeply concerned about the years-long problem that came to light with an audit by the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project and a public hearing about inflated statistics from traffic stops.

The audit showed that the “overreported” or fake tickets could range from about 26,000 to 58,000 instances over an eight-year period. The audit also showed that it is likely that “false and inaccurate records were submitted” to the state’s racial profiling database that keeps track of the race of drivers who are stopped, officials said.

Some lawmakers have questioned the discipline delivered in 2018 to four troopers who falsified records in an inquiry that did not become public until 2022. Two troopers retired, and two others were transferred against their will and suspended, state police said. One of the troopers who was suspended for two days retired in 2021, and the only member currently remaining on the force received a 10-day suspension.

State Rep. Greg Howard, a Republican who also works as a police detective in his hometown of Stonington, has both defended and criticized state police on various points.

“I’m as thrilled as everybody to find out there was no widespread integrity issues, no widespread racial profiling or attempts to cover up racial profiling by our state police,” Howard told reporters Thursday. “That’s a narrative that was out of this building. … That narrative has been debunked today. The state police can rest a little bit easier tonight, especially 70-some-odd troopers that have spent the last eight, nine months of their life wondering if they were going to be the target of a witch hunt and lose their profession – the profession that feeds their families and keeps the roof over their families’ heads. I can’t imagine the mental anguish that they’ve been through, and now we find out unjustifiably. They didn’t do anything wrong.”

Some lawmakers said flatly that, in the future, any troopers who deliberately falsified records should be dismissed from the force and even decertified — a relatively rare occurrence that means they could not be hired by any police department in Connecticut .

State police leaders have not questioned the methodology of the original audit, but the union leaders have raised questions.

After an internal affairs investigation into the original problem in 2018, the state police determined that one trooper had falsified 338 tickets over an eight-month period. A second trooper falsified 155 tickets, while a third trooper falsified 94 tickets, officials said.

The reasons, officials said, are that troopers had been seeking better performance reviews, promotions, increased pay, and better police cars.

The scandal has already had ramifications as the union of state police lieutenants and captains unanimously voted “no confidence” in public safety commissioner James C. Rovella, who oversees the department. The union said it agreed with the state troopers union, which is separate and previously voted no confidence in Rovella.

Rovella eventually retired after the storm of controversy, even though he had not been commissioner when the original issue arose in 2018 before Lamont took office.

Now, Lamont says the state police are moving forward with new leadership.

“I have as much confidence in my state police today as I’ve ever had,” Lamont said.

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