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'Police the Police' demonstrators call for charges as CT traffic ticket scandal unfolds

“Treat them just like a civilian, just like us," said Abimbola “King” Oretade, president of Black Lives Matter 860, outside The Capitol. "If I falsify documentation, I'm looking at felony charges. That's not a lie.”
Chris Polansky
/
Connecticut Public
Abimbola “King” Oretade, president of Black Lives Matter 860, speaks outside The Capitol, July 25, 2023.

Protesters at a “Police the Police” demonstration outside the Connecticut state Capitol on Tuesday called for officers involved in falsifying thousands of traffic tickets to be held accountable.

“They claim there’s no racial bias, but we know there’s racial bias,” said Abimbola “King” Oretade, president of Black Lives Matter 860 in Hartford. “We’ve been noticing police officers pull over more Black and brown [drivers] than other races, and it’s so bad you can see they had to fake a whole lot of tickets. So we want the police officers and whoever had anything to do with that to be under review and suspended until further notice.”

At the rally, Oretade said that officers involved should face prison time.

“Treat them just like a civilian, just like us," Oretade said, further stating that officers had falsified documentation. "If I falsify documentation, I'm looking at felony charges. That's not a lie.”

The demonstration was held just under a month after the release of an audit by analysts at the University of Connecticut, one day after Gov. Ned Lamont appointedConnecticut'sformer U.S. Attorney to conduct an independent review into the findings, and one day before Connecticut State Police and Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection officials were scheduled to testify about the matter at a public hearing.

The audit from the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project at UConn’s Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy found troopers falsified at least 26,000 tickets from 2014 through 2021, skewing reports on the race and ethnicity of pulled-over motorists.

“I have great faith in the overwhelming majority of our troopers, and to protect public confidence in them we must get to the bottom of this and learn how it happened, why it happened, and how to prevent it from ever happening again,” Lamont said in a statement.

Connecticut State Police Col. Stavros Mellekas said in a statement that he had ordered his troopers to cooperate with the formal investigation.

"The Connecticut State Police takes this matter very seriously and we have already instituted several reforms based on the recently released audit,” Mellekas said. “We look forward to continuing that work. We welcome this investigation and will cooperate fully.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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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