A judge granted a motion by the Connecticut Mirror and The Day newspaper of New London to intervene in a lawsuit that could decide whether the Connecticut State Police release the names of troopers who are under investigation for allegedly falsifying or failing to report information on traffic stops.
Superior Court Judge Rupal Shah issued an order on Monday granting the media organizations’ request to participate in the lawsuit, which was initiated by the Connecticut State Police Union in order to prevent the state from disclosing the names and badge numbers of more than a hundred state troopers.
An audit performed by the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project, which collects data detailing the race and ethnicity of people who are pulled over by police in the state, identified roughly 130 current and former state troopers who had a significant number of traffic stops between 2014 and 2021 that could not be corroborated using other data.
The audit suggested those troopers may have either failed to report legitimate traffic stops or made up stops — both of which could throw off the racial profiling data that is used to track the rate at which officers pull over Black and Hispanic drivers in Connecticut.
The controversy over the ticketing data has grown since the release of that report. Lawmakers held legislative hearings, the U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation into the matter, and multiple media outlets asked for the names of the 130 state troopers under the state’s Freedom of Information Act, which grants the public access to government records.
The police union responded to those record requests by asking a judge to block the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, which oversees the state police, from releasing the names or badge numbers of the troopers who were highlighted in the audit.
The union’s lawyers argued the release of the identities of the 130 troopers who were noted in the audit would open those individuals up to “unwarranted scrutiny” and “false allegations” without the benefit of a full investigation.
They also claimed the release of the information would damage the trooper’s reputations and risk the safety of themselves and their families.
The CT Mirror and The Day filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit in order to assert the public’s right to access governmental information under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
William Fish, the attorney representing the CT Mirror and The Day, argued in the motion that the court didn’t have the power to block the state from releasing the names of the troopers because that authority falls to Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission, which issues rulings about whether government records are in fact public information.
Attorneys representing the Freedom of Information Commission made a similar argument in the case, pointing out that state laws gives the FOIC primary authority to oversee disputes involving public records.
“The Freedom of Information Commission, by statute, is the primary venue for resolving disputes about access to public records. We are pleased our motion to intervene in this matter was granted,” said Russell Blair, the director of education and communications for the commission.
Shah, who was appointed to the state bench in 2014, ordered all of the parties involved in the lawsuit to file legal briefs laying out whether the court even has jurisdiction to hear the state police union’s case.
The attorneys get an opportunity to argue their case during a hearing on Sept. 5.