Report: Minority drivers in Conn. stopped at disproportionate rates

HARTFORD (AP) — Black and Hispanic drivers in Connecticut continued to be stopped by police at disproportionately high rates in 2017 and were treated more harshly than whites in many cases after being pulled over, according to a fourth-annual analysis of statewide traffic stops released Tuesday.

Analysts at Central Connecticut State University, however, said the statewide data for the first time showed that minorities were not more likely to be stopped during daylight hours, when officers are more likely to be able to identify a driver's race or ethnicity before pulling them over. And fewer departments were identified as having unusually high rates of traffic stops involving minorities.

"The lack of a disparity statewide and the lower number of identified departments is a promising sign," analysts wrote in the report. "The findings ... indicate that some progress has been made in terms of the decision to stop a minority motorist."

Like in previous reports, analysts said that while the data may show disproportionate percentages of traffic stops involving minorities, it is not proof that officers are committing racial profiling.

The report examined about 542,000 traffic stops made by state and local police during the 2017 calendar year.

About 16% of drivers stopped were black, while 9% of the state's driving age population is black. Hispanics comprised about 14% of motorists stopped and about 12% of the driving age population. The percentage of minority drivers stopped by police was slightly higher than in previous years.

In terms of total stops, fewer minorities were pulled over because there were about 70,000 fewer traffic stops statewide than there were in 2014.

Analysts also noted that minorities were treated differently than whites, in many cases, after being pulled over.

Blacks and Hispanics were less likely than whites to receive only a warning for equipment violations and were more likely than whites to be searched after being stopped for violations involving their registrations, licenses, wearing seat belts and using cellphones while driving, the report said.

The report identified several police departments and state police troops whose data showed they pulled over minority drivers at significantly high rates: town agencies in Fairfield, Derby, Meriden and Wethersfield, and state police Troop C in Tolland and Troop K in Colchester. Analysts said they planned in-depth follow-up analyses of Derby, Fairfield and Troop K.

The Wethersfield police department is the only one in the state to be singled out in all four annual reports. Police Chief James Cetran, a critic of the analysis, said the reports do not fully account for large numbers of minorities from neighboring Hartford who drive into Wethersfield each day.

Scot Esdaile, president of the Connecticut State Conference of the NAACP, said Tuesday that the new statewide traffic stop numbers appear to show little progress has been made.

"This has been going on too long and we're not seeing meaningful change," Esdaile said. "The bottom line is that law enforcement needs to be held accountable."

Connecticut is one of only a few states that collect statewide data on traffic stops. The data collection in Connecticut is mandated by a 1999 state law aimed at preventing racial profiling.

Cheshire Police Chief Neil Dryfe, who serves on a state advisory board that oversees the requirements of the 1999 law, said Tuesday that law enforcement officials still are concerned that many factors that affect traffic stops are not being considered by the analysts, including drivers from cities with large minority populations traveling into nearby towns with lower percentages of blacks and Hispanics.

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Associated Press writer Chris Ehrmann in Hartford contributed to this report. Ehrmann is a corps member for Report for America, a nonprofit organization that supports local news coverage, in a partnership with The Associated Press for Connecticut. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

 

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