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In wake of CT State Police ticket scandal, municipal police departments may face random audits

FILE: Members of the Judiciary and Public Safety committees listen to Ken Barone of the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project (as seen on the projector) during a forum on state police traffic stop data on July 26, 2023.
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
FILE: Members of the Judiciary and Public Safety committees listen to Ken Barone of the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project (as seen on the projector) during a forum on state police traffic stop data on July 26, 2023.

Connecticut’s local police departments may be audited at random to check for fabricated racial profiling data, according to the body that performed such an audit on the Connecticut State Police and concluded troopers likely falsified thousands of traffic stop records.

“At this time, we’re not concerned about a widespread issue in municipal agencies, but we do agree that we should be fully implementing some sort of a random, potentially, audit program of all agencies in Connecticut, just so we can give the public peace of mind,” said Ken Barone, project manager of the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project (CRP3), at the organization’s advisory board meeting on Wednesday.

The discussion comes after Gov. Ned Lamont appointed former U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly to conduct an independent review of the findings in the audit of the Connecticut State Police, a matter also under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Advisory board member Tamara Lanier of the Connecticut NAACP said audits of local agencies would be important for the public trust.

“I think it’s important to understand that the concerns that have been raised by the revelation of the documents and the false reporting is not exclusive to the State Police,” Lanier said. “I believe that it’s a problem throughout policing in Connecticut.”

Several police chiefs who sit on the CRP3 board said it was important their departments not be lumped in with state police.

“This is one of the concerns that the municipal chiefs have, that we’re all being painted with the same broad brush now,” said Cheshire Police Chief Neil Dryfe.

“I think the likelihood of this being a widespread issue is minuscule, but not impossible," West Hartford Police Chief Vernon Riddick said of ticket falsification across the state's local police agencies. Riddick said he would not oppose a random audit process for local departments like his.

“I don't think you'll have chiefs — I don't want to speak for all the chiefs in Connecticut — that if there was some type of audit system, random system, that came out, that people are gonna say, ‘oh, my gosh, no,'" Riddick said. “We would just ask for it to be a fair process.”

The board’s discussion came on the heels of an announcement by the Hartford Police Department that one of its officers, Michael Fallon, had resigned earlier this year after an internal investigation found he falsified records and information in at least one arrest warrant. HPD said they had referred the matter to the Connecticut Police Standards and Training Unit for Fallon’s decertification as a law enforcement officer.

In March, Norwalk police officer Edgar Gonzalez was decertified after accusations of ticket falsification.

CRP3 analyst James Fazzalaro proposed delegating a working group to draft a plan for municipal department audits.

“We always knew that it would be necessary to create some auditing mechanism,” Fazzalaro said, “and this might be the time.”

Chris Polansky joined Connecticut Public in March 2023 as a general assignment and breaking news reporter based in Hartford. Previously, he’s worked at Utah Public Radio in Logan, Utah, as a general assignment reporter; Lehigh Valley Public Media in Bethlehem, Pa., as an anchor and producer for All Things Considered; and at Public Radio Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla., where he both reported and hosted Morning Edition.

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