We recently reported that a Central Connecticut State University institute study found that police officers stop minority drivers at disproportionate rates, a finding that Connecticut police officials deny.
State law requires all police officers in Connecticut to record information from each traffic stop, including race, ethnicity, the reason for the stop and actions taken. The most recent data showed 14 percent of all traffic stops by police statewide from October 2014 to September 2015 involved black drivers, when black people of driving age comprised 9 percent of the population. Nearly 13 percent of traffic stops involved Hispanic drivers, when driving-age Hispanics comprised 12 percent of Connecticut residents. Some local departments had higher disparities.
Berlin Police Chief Paul Fitzgerald, a legislation liaison for the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, says the reports have serious flaws. Fitzgerald told The Associated Press that the institute’s analyses of some towns, for example, don’t take into account the fact that their police often stop drivers from neighboring cities with higher minority populations.
Fitzgerald also took exception to the institute’s findings on stops during daylight hours. The institute said that during the day when officers could see the race and ethnicity of drivers, Hispanics were nearly 14 percent more likely to be pulled over and blacks were about 7 percent more likely to be stopped than they were at night. But Fitzgerald disagreed, saying it’s difficult to identify drivers’ ethnicity during the day.
The good news? Despite these flaws, no local municipality was among the five towns identified as discriminating in a “statistically significant” way.
Certainly, this survey contributes to ongoing awareness of the need to treat all of our citizens equally but it also suggests that, locally, the message is “keep up the good work.”