A state trooper conducts a routine patrol in Hartford in July 2020. When the siren is on, his body camera and the video camera in the police car automatically record. Yehyun Kim / CT Mirror

Dozens of people testified in-person at a public hearing Thursday held in part for a bill that would codify into law a requirement for police officers to inform drivers of the reason for a traffic stop.

Public testimony was provided from people both in support and opposition to parts of the legislation that, in addition to informing drivers of their alleged violation, would mandate the Police Officer Standards and Training Counsel to develop a curriculum for additional training of police officers “on de-escalation, use of force, customer service, diversity and bias.”

“When I drive in the state of Connecticut — with or without my family — I would like to drive rooted in confidence that if I’m pulled over by an officer, he or she will notify me of why I am being pulled over,” said Erika Wesley, who described herself as a nonprofit professional, small business owner, author, wife and mother. “The lack of disclosure can incite a level of fear, especially in women and teenagers, that is not only unhelpful but can cause the individual to make errors in communication, that can lead to a dangerous situation,” said Wesley, who is Black.

Out of more than 500,000 traffic stops conducted in 2019, Black drivers comprised 18% — despite making up only 13% of the state population. That disparity did not exist for White and Hispanic drivers.

In written testimony, the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association told legislators that it has no objection to providing verbal notifications to drivers but has concerns about a part of the law that would mandate officers to record data on “whether the officer informed the operator of such alleged traffic violation or other violation that caused the stop to be made,” according to the bill.

The association said the information “adds nothing” to the understanding of traffic stops in the state. However, if the bill passed, the data would presumably track whether officers follow the law.

In her closing remarks, Wesley said she believes safety begins with transparency, clarity and concise communication between officers and drivers.

“If passed, I’m hopeful that this bill … will improve interactions between citizens and law enforcement, and ultimately improve our communities,” she said.


Jaden is CT Mirror's justice reporter. He was previously a summer reporting fellow at The Texas Tribune and interned at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. He received a bachelor's degree in electronic media from Texas State University and a master's degree in investigative journalism from the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University.