Lawmakers explore police reform bills after false ticket probe

The proposal comes after an audit flagged at least 26,000 questionable traffic citations

John Craven

Mar 6, 2024, 10:51 PM

Updated 46 days ago

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When – and how – police can pull drivers over led to a fierce debate at the state Capitol on Wednesday.
Lawmakers got an earful about several reform bills – partly spurred by the recent Connecticut State Police false ticket investigation, which cleared most troopers.
FALSIFYING RECORDS
One bill would make intentionally falsifying police records a Class D felony. Officers could also be decertified.
“The bill does not criminalize inadvertent errors or unintended mistakes by police officers,” Public Safety Commissioner Ronnell Higgins told lawmakers.
The proposal comes after an audit flagged at least 26,000 questionable traffic citations. An eight-month independent review concluded that only six troopers intentionally falsified stops. The report blamed the rest on sloppy record-keeping and poor training.
“We found no evidence that any Trooper or Constable engaged in conduct with the intention of skewing racial profiling data,” former federal prosecutor Deirdre Daly wrote.
Republicans said dispatchers and other emergency personnel should face the same penalties as officers.
“According to the governor’s bill, if any of them do it, it’s not a crime,” said state Rep. Greg Howard (R-Stonington), who is also a police detective. “But if a police officer does it, it’s a felony.”
SECONDARY TRAFFIC STOPS
GOP leaders are also fighting a bill to create “secondary” traffic stops. Officers could no longer pull drivers over solely for a missing license plate, a broken headlight or tinted windows.
It’s designed to prevent traffic stops that sometimes turn deadly.
“If you’ve never been detained because you ‘fit a description’ or been stopped and thrown against the wall for merely existing in your neighborhood, you don’t know what the anxiety police presence creates,” Josiah Schlee, of Simsbury, told the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee.
The American Civil Liberties Union said secondary traffic stops disproportionately target ethnic minorities.
“Traffic stops do result in many more searches of drivers of color, relative to white drivers – even though searches of drivers of color are much less likely to find criminal activity or contraband,” said ACLU of Connecticut policy director Jess Zaccagnino.
SAFETY RISK?
Efforts to limit traffic stops have failed over the past few years, after police chiefs raised safety concerns. This year, they told lawmakers that less enforcement will lead to even more drunk drivers and wrong-way crashes.
“A car without properly functioning headlights or tail lights poses a hazard to the driver and other motorists,” said New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson.
But traffic researchers said that secondary violations rarely lead to accidents.
“They were listed as a contributing factor in crashes less than one-tenth of one percent of all crashes,” said UConn’s Ken Barone, who also works with the Connecticut Police Transparency and Accountability Task Force.
WHAT’S NEXT?
A third bill would increase training for police body cameras.
The Judiciary Committee has an April 1 deadline to vote on all three proposals.


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