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‘It's unacceptable.’ Connecticut State Police pledge accountability in fake ticket investigation

State lawmakers grilled state police leaders about thousands of potentially fake traffic tickets, as the investigations grow into the scandal.

John Craven

Jul 26, 2023, 9:25 PM

Updated 358 days ago

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Connecticut State Police are used to questioning drivers, but it was troopers getting interrogated on Wednesday. State lawmakers grilled state police leaders about thousands of potentially fake traffic tickets, as the investigations grow into the scandal.
Public Safety Commissioner James Rovella revealed that the U.S. Justice Department is likely to launch a criminal probe soon. That’s on top of investigations from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the chief state’s attorney and a former federal prosecutor appointed by Gov. Ned Lamont.
“There could be a second federal investigation this week,” Rovella told lawmakers at a tense, hourslong hearing.
AUDIT FINDS “GHOST TICKETS”
A recent audit from the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project found “a high likelihood” that almost 26,000 traffic citations were fabricated between 2014 and 2021 – and that more than 30,000 more tickets were questionable. Tickets were flagged if they appeared in the state’s racial profiling database, but not the Central Infractions Bureau system – or vice-versa.
One of the report’s lead authors told lawmakers that overreported tickets were almost 10% more likely to be listed as white drivers, while underreported stops were more likely to be minority drivers.
“We ultimately identified 311 troopers and 76 constables with statistically significant number of unsubstantiated records in at least one year of the audit,” said Ken Barone, with the Racial Profiling Prohibition Project.
“WE WILL HOLD THOSE INDIVIDUALS ACCOUNTABLE”
Top brass with the state police said they have launched their own internal audit and are also cooperating with outside probes into whether the “ghost tickets” are fake – and if so, if they were entered intentionally.
“If they are, we will hold those individuals accountable, because they represent the Connecticut State Police and it's unacceptable,” said Col. Stavros Mellekas, commander of the agency.
The Connecticut State Police Union urged the public and the press to wait for all the facts to come out. But they also suggested some troopers may have inflated their traffic stops – not for racial reasons, but to meet quotas.
“You get pressure from your superior. You don't get certain work assignments,” said Andy Matthews, the union’s executive director. “You don't get a new car. You get transferred further away from your home.”
Matthews and Mellekas both stressed that such pressure is no longer allowed.
On Monday, Lamont launched an independent investigation, headed by former U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly. That review could take up to six months.
“Let's not jump to conclusions,” Lamont told reporters on Wednesday. “What's important for me, for the leadership, is to get to the bottom of this – full transparency. Leave no stone unturned.”
WIDER PROBLEM?
Four troopers were already disciplined for reporting fake traffic tickets back in 2018. Two were given minor disciplinary action, while two others were allowed to retire.
But state police kept that investigation secret until Hearst Connecticut Media uncovered it last summer.
Some Black lawmakers wonder if the problem goes even deeper.
“If you can falsify information during a traffic stop, then what would make me think that you wouldn't do that in other instances?” asked state Rep. Robyn Porter (D-New Haven).


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