A state policeman makes a salute gesture as the national anthem is being played at a Connecticut State Police graduation ceremony. The ceremony is taking place inside of a baseball park.
A salute as the national anthem is played during the Connecticut State Police graduation ceremony in 2020. Yehyun Kim / CT Mirror

Connecticut State Police troopers may have falsified tens of thousands of traffic stop records submitted to the state’s racial profiling data reporting program, potentially skewing the numbers to reflect more infractions for white drivers and fewer for Black and Hispanic motorists.

The revelation was made in a report released Wednesday following an investigation last year by Hearst Connecticut Media Group revealing that in 2018 four state troopers had fabricated hundreds of traffic stop tickets for professional gain.

The report was the result of a comprehensive audit by the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project in the months after the investigation was published. 

Auditors reviewed more than 800,000 infractions submitted by 1,301 troopers, stretching from 2014 to 2021. The inquiry showed that the overreporting and underreporting of traffic infractions went far beyond the four troopers first identified by internal affairs investigations and subsequent reporting.

The researchers were unable to corroborate 25,966 stops submitted to the racial profiling database while indicating that the number of falsified records could possibly exceed 58,000. 

Overreported traffic infractions by state troopers were more likely to involve white-non Hispanic drivers while the underreported violations were more likely to include Black or Hispanic motorists, the report states. 

More than 7,400 traffic stop records were falsified by constables, researchers said, though they likely had minimal impact on the state’s annual analysis of traffic data — given that constables contribute less than 5% of all stops reported by state police.

“Identifying statistically significant discrepancies can be evidence of wrongdoing but a formal investigation would need to confirm that, and that is beyond the scope of our audit,” the report says. “When we identify records as ‘false’ it is because they fail to meet any of the thresholds we established to try and link them to a real … record, no matter how tenuous that linkage might have been.”

Falsified data would have affected the ability to analyze the information, researchers said, and likely downplayed the extent of the racial disparities currently reflected in traffic stop numbers. 

It also could have violated the state’s police accountability law, which notes the falsification of reports and violations of the Alvin W. Penn Racial Profiling Prohibition Act as grounds for decertification of an officer’s license. 

In a virtual meeting Wednesday, where members of the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project shared the report’s findings with their advisory board, State Police Colonel Stavros Mellekas noted that the number of falsified records declined after 2018, following changes within the agency after the internal affairs investigations. He also said that no state resident received a fake ticket. Rather, troopers and constables were making up traffic stops that didn’t happen and making up demographic information for the profiling system.

“The state police back in 2018, the previous administration, they moved in the right direction, took corrective action, identified it themselves,” Mellekas said, adding that those actions came prior to passage of the state’s police accountability law. “As they took corrective action, again, informed these individuals and the whole area that this will not be tolerated going forward. And I think a continued review from our office and your offices will help ensure that.”

Two of the troopers from the initial investigation had received short suspensions, while the other two retired before the conclusion of the inquiry.

During the meeting, Democratic Sen. Gary Winfield, co-chair of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee and a member of the racial profiling project’s advisory board, shared concerns about officials trying to conclude that what happened in 2018 had a significant impact on the numbers.

“We’re still involved in doing the analysis of what happened in 2018, so I don’t think that’s a large enough data set to make that statement,” Winfield said. While state police may be right about the decline, “I’m often concerned about that, because when the public hears those things, when it doesn’t necessarily turn out to be that later, we’ve said something one way or the other.”

Ken Barone, one of the report’s primary authors, noted how after the four officers were investigated, falsified reports in their cohort, identified as Troop E, “disappeared overnight.”

“Intervention, investigation into four troopers, everybody else must have gotten the word,” Barone said. “That wasn’t necessarily the case in troops C, K, or F. … I do think some of that is related to the intervention on the part of the state police at the time, but certainly the data tells us that it wasn’t occurring equally.”

In a statement after the meeting, Claudine Constant, public policy and advocacy director of the ACLU of Connecticut, described the audit’s findings as “breathtaking disrespect” for the state’s racial profiling prohibition law and its goal of reducing systemic racism in policing.

“Police cannot police themselves,” Constant said in the statement. “We urge swift and transparent accountability for all individual Connecticut State Police employees who falsified traffic stop records, and this report also requires system-wide accountability for the Connecticut State Police.”

The audit comes to light nearly a year after Hearst Connecticut Media Group reported that four state troopers in Montville’s Troop E — Timothy Bentley, Noah Gouveia, Kevin Moore and Daniel Richter — fabricated hundreds of traffic stop tickets for better assignments, pay increases, promotions and specialty vehicles. 

While Troop E was the focus of the State Police’s internal investigations, it had the fifth-largest number of overreported records, according to the report.

Moore and Richter received 10-day and two-day suspensions, respectively, after the investigation, while Bentley and Gouveia retired. Richter then retired in 2021. The state’s Division of Criminal Justice has since opened a criminal investigation. The three retired troopers still receive monthly pensions, while Moore is still an active employee.

Under the Alvin W. Penn Racial Profiling Act passed in 1999, police are obligated to record and submit traffic stop data, including the reason for a search, the race, ethnicity and gender of the person stopped, and whether the encounter resulted in an arrest. 

In 2012, the law was expanded after a federal investigation into the East Haven Police Department revealed that officers intentionally targeted Latino drivers, treated them harshly and failed to implement basic anti-discrimination policies. That led to the establishment of the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project, which collects traffic data and helps identify and address racial and ethnic disparities. 

The project’s latest traffic report — prior to the audit — found that out of roughly 248,000 traffic stops, Black drivers made up 19% of stops despite only making up 13% of the state’s population. It also divulged that police were more likely to stop Hispanic drivers in daylight relative to darkness. 

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.