Follow Up Study Narrows Racial Profiling In Traffic Stops to 18 Police Officers
by Jack Kramer | Jul 21, 2017 12:00pm
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Posted to: Civil Liberties, Law Enforcement, Bloomfield, Meriden, New Milford, Newington, Norwalk, Trumbull, West Hartford, Windsor
HARTFORD, CT — Eighteen police officers were identified as being statistically more likely to stop minority motorists in nine municipal police departments and the state police barracks in Hartford, according to a report compiled by the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy.
The report, which was a follow-up earlier report by the same group, analyzed potential problems at state police Troop H, and nine municipal departments.
That earlier study found that Bloomfield, New Milford, Norwalk, West Hartford, and Wethersfield appeared to target black and Hispanic drivers more frequently.
Meriden, Newington, Trumbull, and Windsor were also found to have consistent disparities that raised the potential of racial and ethnic bias, the earlier study found.
The follow-up 223-page report analyzing policing in the nine departments and Troop H was presented at a meeting of the Connecticut Racial Profiling Advisory Board Thursday.
“This analysis does not identify officers that are racially profiling,” Ken Barone, policy and research specialist at the Institute for Municipal & Regional Policy at CCSU, and a member of the advisory board, stressed. He said there could be factors that the data does not consider.
Instead, Barone said the report was intended to be “a tool” for the police departments signaled out to use for instructional and training purposes.
Barone noted that the report doesn’t name, nor attempt to identify, who the officers are. They are referred to by their badge numbers for individual department personnel to address if they see fit, Barone said.
The report stated that 762 police officers were listed in a traffic stop database system for the nine municipal departments and the state police troop during the 2014-15 time period analyzed.
After limiting the sample to officers with 50 or more traffic stops, a total of 294 officers were examined. Of the officers examined, 25 were identified as being statistically more likely to stop a minority motorist relative to their benchmark.
The report stated these 25 officers were then examined using a balancing test that directly compared the distribution of observable traffic stop characteristics with those of each officer’s benchmark.
The balancing test, the report said, revealed that only 18 of the 25 officers had a benchmark that convincingly captured the distribution of observable traffic stops.
Of those 18 officers, two were found to be in the Bloomfield police department; two in Newington; three in Norwalk; one in Trumbull; three in Windsor; five in West Hartford; and two at Troop H.
Three departments analyzed - Meriden, New Milford and Wethersfield had no cops above the benchmark.
The supplemental report came out as a follow-up to an earlier 292-page report that looked at more than 585,000 traffic stops around the state during the same time period.
The most damning evidence from the Racial Profiling Prohibition Project report is that black and Hispanic drivers are more likely to be pulled over during daylight hours than after dark, when officers presumably can’t see who’s behind the wheel.
James Fazzalaro, co-project manager with Barone, noted some patterns that crossed municipalities, notably, that white drivers are more likely to be pulled over for violations such as speeding and texting while minority drivers are more likely to be pulled over for equipment violations.
“The results from this latest report are clear: too many police departments in Connecticut are relying on the unfair and ineffective practice of targeting neighborhoods where people of color live and drive when deciding where to enforce car equipment violations,” David McGuire, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Connecticut said.
“These equipment traffic stops are a suburban version of stop and frisk, and we have no doubt that they are just as discriminatory and ineffective as that failed program,” McGuire added.
One of the constants in the supplemental report is that the departments analyzed had a higher number of police patrolling minority neighborhoods.
Sometimes Barone noted, those minority neighborhoods were smack in the center of the city, and sometimes they were in neighborhoods that border larger cities, such as Hartford.
The report also noted that a large part of Troop H’s responsibility is patrolling areas neighboring Hartford.
Emphasizing, again, that it wasn’t the report or the report’s authors intention to critique the work done by the police, but just to supply data, Barone said some conclusions can easily be drawn by looking at realities.
“If you have three cops patrolling a minority area and one officer patrolling a white neighborhood, odds are there will be more people pulled over in the neighborhood where more police are patrolling,” Barone said.
Barone said that Connecticut is out front on the issue of tackling racial profiling, stating, “We are the only state in the country that does this level of analysis” about traffic stops by police.
“That makes us unique,” Barone added, stating the next step is for the supplemental report to be shared with police chiefs and others in the 10 departments analyzed for their review “to better understand racial disparities.”
He said meetings with the personnel in the department’s analyzed have already begun and will continue.
Former New Haven state Rep. William Dyson, who chairs the Profiling Advisory Board, thanked Barone and his team for the comprehensive report.
“We appreciate your hard work,” Dyson said.