Audit prompted by CT state police fake ticket scheme expands

Profiling group says it found inconsistencies with dozens of troopers' records

A sign outside the Connecticut State Police Troop E building in Uncasville.

A sign outside the Connecticut State Police Troop E building in Uncasville.

Ned Gerard/Hearst Connecticut Media

A state contractor said its audit of Connecticut State Police traffic ticket data found inconsistencies with dozens of troopers’ records, raising further questions about whether a fake citation scheme involving four officers may have been more widespread.

The advisory board for the contractor, The Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project, voted unanimously Thursday to expand the audit to examine all state police tickets recorded between 2014 and 2021.

The move came after the project’s director, Ken Barone, told the board an analysis found concerning discrepancies within the ticket data for troopers who worked at Troop E in Montville in 2018 – the same unit and year that four officers were found to be faking tickets.

The project’s audit of ticket data found up to 50 of the unit’s 79 troopers had “unaccounted for records” in 2018, including between 10 and 20 officers with more than 10 unaccounted for records, Barone said.

Barone cautioned his staff do not know why those records are unaccounted for and his team is not determining whether records were falsified.

In an earlier phase of the audit, his staff found the four troopers who created fake tickets had sent more than 1,300 falsified records to the project in 2018.

Board member Tamara Lanier, a vice president for the New London NAACP, said the findings were troubling.

“I’m floored to be honest with you,” Lanier said. “If we are saying there is falsified and unaccounted for data, not only will our efforts be compromised the entire reporting system will be compromised. We have to go where the evidence takes us. Then, there is also the issue of accountability.”

State Police Col. Stavros Mellekas, the agency’s commander and a profiling project board member, has said previously fake tickets were isolated to the four troopers. 

However, that assertion has come into question in light of the profiling project’s findings and in the wake of a Hearst Connecticut Media report last month detailing the findings of a recently-obtained state police audit.

That audit showed state police supervisors in 2018 uncovered significant discrepancies in the number of traffic tickets issued by dozens of troopers and raised questions about how carefully the agency examined whether fake ticket schemes were more widespread.

On Thursday, Mellekas said he supports the audit.

“We welcome the audit and we are sure it will decrease inaccurate reports,” Mellekas said. “If there is falsified records, we will address that accordingly and if there is error, we will address that with training.”

Mellekas pointed out some troopers had no discrepancies in their ticket records during 2018. Some troopers with inconsistencies may have accidentally recorded data incorrectly, he said.

Mellekas said nearly all the force now has updated equipment to try to prevent such errors. 

In late August, Hearst Connecticut Media Group reported that state police investigators in 2018 discovered four troopers at Troop E in Montville had collectively entered at least 636 fake tickets into the state police computer system over a nine-month stretch to make it appear they were more productive than they actually were.

The troopers did so for their own personal benefit – to curry favor and perks from supervisors, internal investigators concluded.

The troopers subsequently avoided criminal charges, even after state police supervisors discussed among themselves whether the troopers possibly violated criminal law, records show.

The misconduct was not exposed publicly until Hearst Connecticut Media’s report in August detailing findings from internal police files the news outlet obtained shortly beforehand through public records requests.

Following the news report, the state’s Chief State’s Attorney’s office launched a criminal investigation into the trooper’s actions and Barone’s project launched its own review.

The racial profiling project raised concern its data could be inaccurate due to the fake tickets and questioned whether the scheme spread to other troops.

State police and local police departments are required by law to submit data to the project about traffic stops, including a driver’s race, age and gender. The project analyzes that data to look for patterns, such as if officers are stopping young Black men more often than other drivers. 

The project's audits have compared infractions created within the state police computer system with tickets sent to the state judicial system for adjudication.

On Thursday, regarding the four troopers who created fake tickets, Barone said, “We determined records from the falsified data did make it into the profiling data.”

“And we determined there were records unaccounted for [from other troopers] but just not at the scale of these four troopers,” Barone added.

Barone said some troopers had particularly high numbers of unaccounted for records. Data from six troopers represented 25 percent of the total amount of unaccounted for records found. For one trooper, 88 percent of their records were deemed unaccounted for.

An advisory board subcommittee had recommended only auditing tickets written by the Eastern Division of the state police, which includes Colchester Tolland, Danielson and Montville. The board ultimately decided to audit the entire department.

Claudine Constant, a board member and public policy director for the Connecticut chapter of the ACLU, said she suspects fake tickets will be found throughout the state police department. 

“It is clear this has permeated all of CSP and not just a region or troop,” said Constant, who pushed for a full audit. “The purpose of this group is to try to rebuild trust between what police do and the community. We have an opportunity to go all in.”

Shannon Trice, who represents the federal Department of Transportation, offered support for a full audit. “We would support a full audit it’s the right thing to do and its common sense,” she said.

Neil Dryfe, the Cheshire police chief and president of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, allayed concern that officers in municipal departments could fake tickets.

“This is difficult to do in small departments,” Dryfe said. “In Cheshire, every ticket has certain numbers, and you can’t clear it until you complete the racial profile report. Traffic stops are all called into the dispatcher. I’m not guaranteeing 100 percent someone could not figure a way to do it, but it’s extremely unlikely because it’s just that more difficult to do.”

Various police officials have explained state police work more independently than municipal departments resulting in less direct supervision, the ability to “self dispatch” without oversight and more control over the process of creating tickets.