Connecticut

Audit prompted by CT state police fake ticket scheme expands

A state contractor said its examination of Connecticut State Police ticket data found discrepancies with dozens of serviceman records, raising further questions about whether a fake citation scheme involving four officers might have been more widespread.

The contractor’s advisory board, The Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project, voted unanimously Thursday to expand the audit to include all state police tickets recorded between 2014 and 2021.

The move came after the project’s director, Ken Barone, shared with the board an analysis related to discrepancies in ticket dates for soldiers working at Troop E in Montville in 2018 — the same unit and year that four officers were discovered as counterfeiters of tickets.

The project’s examination of ticket data found that up to 50 of the unit’s 79 soldiers had “unresolved records” in 2018, including between 10 and 20 officers with more than 10 unproven records, Barone said.

Barone warned that his staff doesn’t know why those records aren’t being considered, and his team doesn’t determine if any records were falsified.

At an earlier stage of the audit, his staff discovered that the four police officers who created fake tickets had sent more than 1,300 fake records to the project in 2018.

Board member Tamara Lanier, vice president of the New London NAACP, said the results were worrying.

“I’m floored to be honest,” Lanier said. “If we say that data is falsified and unsubstantiated, not only will our efforts be compromised, but the entire reporting system as well. We must go where the evidence takes us. Then there is also the issue of accountability.”

Colonel Stavros Mellekas of the State Police, commander of the agency and board member of the profiling project, said counterfeit tickets for the four soldiers had previously been isolated.

However, that claim has been questioned in light of the results of the profiling project and in the wake of a report by Hearst Connecticut Media last month detailing the results of a recently obtained state police audit.

That audit showed that state police regulators in 2018 uncovered significant discrepancies in the number of tickets issued by dozens of police officers, raising questions about how carefully the agency had investigated whether counterfeit ticketing systems were more prevalent.

On Thursday, Mellekas said he supports the exam.

“We welcome the audit and are confident it will reduce inaccurate reporting,” Mellekas said. “If there are fake records we will address that accordingly and if there is an error we will address that with training.”

Mellekas pointed out that some soldiers had no discrepancies in their ticket records in 2018. Some soldiers with discrepancies may have inadvertently recorded data incorrectly, he said.

Mellekas said almost the entire force now has updated equipment to try to prevent such mistakes.

In late August, the Hearst Connecticut Media Group reported that state police investigators discovered in 2018 that four officers at Troop E in Montville had entered a total of at least 636 counterfeit tickets into the state police computer system over a nine-month period to create the appearance that they were more productive than they actually were.

The police officers did this for their own personal gain – to insinuate themselves into favors and favors with superiors, internal investigators concluded.

The officers subsequently dodged criminal charges, even after the state’s police regulators discussed among themselves whether the officers might have broken criminal laws, records show.

The wrongdoing was not publicly exposed until August, when Hearst Connecticut Media reported, which detailed findings from internal police files the news agency had obtained through public records requests shortly before.

According to the news report, the state attorney’s office launched a criminal investigation into the officer’s actions, and Barone’s project launched its own investigation.

The racial profiling project raised concerns that its data could be inaccurate due to the fake tickets and questioned whether the system was expanding to other troops.

State police and local police departments are required by law to submit traffic stop data to the project, including a driver’s race, age and sex. The project analyzes this data to look for patterns, e.g. B. whether officers stop young black men more often than other drivers.

The project’s audits compared violations created in the state police computer system to tickets sent to the state justice system for decision.

Referring to the four police officers who created fake tickets, Barone said on Thursday: “We found that records from the fake data made it into the profile data.”

“And we found that there are records that have not been explained [from other troopers] but just not on the scale of those four soldiers,” Barone added.

Barone said some soldiers had a particularly high number of unreported records. Data from six police officers accounted for 25 percent of the total amount of missing records found. In the case of a police officer, 88 percent of their records were considered unresolved.

An advisory board subcommittee had recommended only considering tickets authored by the state police’s Eastern Division, which includes Colchester Tolland, Danielson and Montville. The board finally decided to audit the entire department.

Claudine Constant, board member and director of public policy for the ACLU Connecticut chapter, said she suspects counterfeit tickets are being found throughout the state police department.

“It’s clear that this permeated the entire CSP and not just one region or force,” said Constant, who pushed for a full review. “The purpose of this group is to try to restore trust between what the police are doing and the community. We have an opportunity to go all-in.”

Shannon Trice, representing the Federal Department of Transportation, offered support for a full review. “We would support a full audit, it’s the right thing to do and common sense,” she said.

Neil Dryfe, the Cheshire Police Chief and president of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, allayed concerns that officers in city departments might forge tickets.

“That’s difficult in small departments,” Dryfe said. “In Cheshire every ticket has specific numbers and you cannot delete it until you have completed the racial profile report. Traffic stops are all called into the dispatcher. I can’t 100 percent guarantee that someone wouldn’t be able to find a way, but it’s extremely unlikely because it’s just so harder.”

Various police officers have stated that the work of state police is more independent than that of local authorities, resulting in less direct supervision, the ability to “self-deploy” without supervision, and more control over the ticketing process.

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