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December 12, 2023

Federal grand jury subpoenas state police ticket records

RYAN CARON KING / CT PUBLIC State Senator Gary Winfield (fourth from left) and members of the Judiciary and Public Safety committees listen during a forum on a state police traffic stop data audit on July 26, 2023. The report, released by Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project, showed thousands of traffic tickets were falsified between 2014 and 2021, skewing race and ethnicity data.

A federal grand jury investigating the state police ticket scandal has issued a subpoena to the agency seeking records of motor vehicle stops by hundreds of troopers going back to January 2014.

The subpoena, issued in late October, ordered the state to produce the documents by November 14 to a federal grand jury that has been convened in New Haven.

The federal investigation is being run by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General in Woburn, Mass., and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Unit in Washington DC.

It was the second subpoena issued; the first subpoena, issued in September, was more general, seeking data the agency submitted to the Connecticut Racial Profiling Project, the group that discovered the alleged phony tickets submitted by a group of officers from one state police barracks in 2018.

The new subpoena seeks 28 separate data fields for each traffic stop, including the officer’s identification number, the race and ethnicity of the motorist who was stopped, the location of the stop, and the citation that was issued.

In June, state auditors published a report detailing how they were unable to corroborate 25,966 traffic stops submitted to the racial profiling database, while indicating that the number of falsified records could exceed 58,000. They found that the fake records reflected more infractions for white drivers and fewer for Black and Hispanic motorists.

The report outlined how the falsifications by state troopers and constables compromised the accuracy of racial profiling data, which the state collects annually. It also acknowledged that investigating the motives for the fabrications was not part of the audit.

After the audit’s release, Chief State’s Attorney Patrick Griffin’s office said it was launching an investigation into “the information received recently through the academic report” but declined to comment further on the nature of the inquiry or whom it involved. 

Griffin’s office stepped aside over the summer when federal officials indicated they wanted to investigate since the state received money from the U.S. Department of Transportation to enforce speed limits on federal highways.

Last summer, Hearst Connecticut Media Group revealed how, in 2018, four state troopers had fabricated hundreds of traffic stop tickets to obtain better assignments, pay increases, promotions and specialty vehicles. 

Earlier this month, the state police released an update on their ongoing internal affairs investigation that indicated they had cleared 26 officers of wrongdoing.

The four-page memo signed by new State Police Col. Daniel Laughman said that a team of five troopers were in the process of investigating 130 of their current and former colleagues who had the greatest number of ticket discrepancies, according to the audit.

The 26 exonerated officers comprised 18 active troopers, three constables and five retired troopers.

“The primary source of the discrepancies resided with paper tickets. In the majority, the source of these discrepancies rested with badge number errors and age discrepancies. Badge number errors result from badge numbers transcribed at CIB incorrectly, likely due to legibility issues, or that were missing from the record visible to end users,” Laughman wrote.

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