State Police union: Dozens of troopers cleared in ‘fake ticket’ probe, but reason why is disputed
More than two dozen state troopers have been cleared of writing potentially fake traffic tickets, the Connecticut State Police Union said Wednesday. But minutes later, key details were disputed by the author of a report that concluded troopers wrote at least 26,000 questionable citations.
Those tickets showed up in a racial profiling database, but not in the state’s central infractions system – or vice-versa.
The scandal has now led to an internal state police probe, an independent investigation led by former U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly and a criminal probe by the U.S. Department of Justice.
‘THIS HAS GOTTEN OUT OF CONTROL’
Union leaders chastised reporters for rushing to judgement during a state Capitol news conference.
“This has gotten out of control in the press, to the point our people are getting threatened,” said union director Andrew Matthews.
The union’s president, Todd Fedigan, said state police have already exonerated 27 of the 130 troopers singled out in the audit by the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project.
“They looked into the files. They found 177 handwritten tickets for one trooper and 70 for the other,” Fedigan told reporters. “They were exonerated.”
But the audit's co-author said only 17 troopers have been cleared – and that was only because they had duplicate badge numbers.
“There were a small number of people who the state police had, for whatever reason, accidentally maybe, assigned the same badge number to two people,” said Ken Barone, with UConn’s Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy.
State police declined to clarify the discrepancy.
“In an effort to preserve the integrity of the still active and ongoing investigation, the agency will not be speaking on these matters,” the agency said in an e-mail statement.
Last month, the state police commander told lawmakers that an internal audit is looking at whether the “ghost tickets” are fake – and if so, were they 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 said at a July 26 hearing.
Matthews called the report rushed and sloppy, saying auditors did not look at evidence that could explain the nearly 26,000 questionable tickets.
“Could a human error of a dispatcher when I didn't have a computer in my car, cleared it with an infraction, claiming it should have been reported to [Criminal Infractions Bureau] when it was a summons?” he said “It goes to the court; it doesn't go to CIB.”
Barone defended the report, noting it took nine months and included input from state police leaders.
“I do take issue with sort of the narrative that this report was rushed,” he said. “If you're asking, ‘Did we do a forensic audit?’ That would mean I went in and looked at every stop and looked at case notes that were written … We don't have access to that.”
Barone said Daly’s investigators have already interviewed his team several times. Matthews said no investigators have reached out to the union yet.
Next week, the Connecticut State Police Union will ask a judge to seal the names of the 130 troopers singled-out in the audit until the investigations conclude.