NEW BRITAIN - The Berlin Police Department is one of six municipal departments flagged as having above average minority traffic stops in a racial profiling report released Thursday.
The report was by the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy at Central Connecticut State University for the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project. It looked at data from about 560,000 traffic stops from October 2015 to September 2016 that all police departments in the state were required to submit.
The report released Thursday is the third the project has completed in recent years.
Berlin police, along with Meriden, Monroe, Newtown, Norwich, Ridgefield and State Police Troop B, were all highlighted for “significant disparities” in the rate at which black and Hispanic motorists are stopped compared with white drivers. In Berlin’s case, the disparities became evident when traffic stops took place in daylight - when a person’s skin color or ethnicity can be seen - vs. nighttime when it is more difficult to determine someone’s race, said the report’s authors. Under the “Veil of Darkness” methodology, officers should be stopping motorists at equal rates whether the sun is out or not, according to the report’s authors.
Berlin Police Chief John Klett deferred comment, pointing out that his department has not had time to adequately review the data in the report prior to its release. Klett also noted that during the previous two racial profiling reports Berlin had not been flagged for scrutiny. In this report, Berlin was only flagged in the area of the “Veil of Darkness,” Klett said.
The seven agencies will be analyzed further to determine if the number of minority stops is due to profiling or other reasons, said Kenneth Barone, project manager for IMRP, which worked with the project to produce the report. Factors such as Berlin’s proximity to Meriden and New Britain, both of which have higher minority populations, will be looked at, as will the commuter traffic that heads into and through town.
The methodology used in analyzing the data does not assume that police officers can always see a driver’s ethnicity or race during daylight hours when considering a traffic stop, Barone said. “But it does assume that the likelihood of an officer being able to see someone’s race is diminished greatly in darkness,” he said.
None of the six town departments or Troop B were identified in previous reports as having high rates of stopping minority drivers. Five other departments were also identified as having high rates: Wethersfield, East Hartford, Stratford, Meriden and Trumbull.
Statewide, about 15 percent of the drivers stopped were black and about 13 percent were Hispanic. Black people of driving age comprise about 9 percent of the state’s population, while Hispanics of driving age make up about 12 percent of the population, the report said.
The percentage of traffic stops involving minorities has increased annually since the first report was issued three years ago. In 2013-14, about 14 percent of drivers stopped were black and about 12 percent were Hispanic.
Information from the Associated Press was included in this story.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com. Follow her on Twitter @LBackusNBH