NEW BRITAIN, CT (WFSB) - The findings of an analysis on eight local police departments identified as having significant racial and ethnic disparities last year were released on Thursday.
Central Connecticut State University's Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy held a briefing.
Its research was conducted over 12 months and focuses on departments in Ansonia, Berlin, Darien, Madison, Monroe, Newtown, Norwich and Ridgefield.
Through a collaboration with each department, the institute was able to depict a department’s stop data by race/ethnicity down to the neighborhood and officer level by mapping stops and then overlaying them with additional information such as resident census data, crime, calls for service, traffic flow, accident rates, and departmental strategies.
About 40 percent of the stops in Berlin, for example, were on the Berlin Turnpike, mostly for cell phone use. Ninety percent of those stopped weren't from Berlin.
“We have discovered each year we’ve produced a report race is a factor in motor vehicle enforcement," said Ken Barone, CT Racial Profiling Prohibition Project. "The question then becomes well why is it a factor?"
“Post-Ferguson, it is very important for police legitimacy that we remain transparent to the public about what we do and how we do it," said Chief Jack Drumm, Madison police.
Drumm referred to the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, MO. Since 2014, the IMRP has conducted follow up analyses on nearly 30 departments in Connecticut.
“These in-depth reports provide a unique perspective into the similarities and differences in traffic stop enforcement from one Connecticut community to another, which allows the public to better understand how and why police administrators make decisions when deploying police resources,” Barone said. This detailed information can be used by the Advisory Board and the greater public to inform discussions about traffic stop disparities on a community and statewide level."
It was pointed out that most of the towns on the list are close to an urban area or point of interest for people to travel through or to.
"So we can’t say and what we do not say is that officers are out there targeting individuals on the basis of their race or ethnicity," Barone said. "Data will never allow you to draw that conclusion.”
Police chiefs were largely receptive to the report but added that the methodology could be flawed.
“We’ve been to numerous presentations by other experts in the field who believe that census data is not the best way to determine estimated driving populations," said Chief Ray Osborne, Darien police.
The commission overseeing the discussion said the numbers presented give a look into society and should be taken seriously.
“There were about 21 officers that were identified in this report that based on their statistics they are more likely to stop African-American and latino drivers," said Werner Oyanadel, Commission of Equity and Opportunity.
Police argued that those officers also have a higher total of traffic stops.
However, all agreed that there is more behind the numbers when it comes to enforcing the law and socioeconomics can play a major role.
“We end up being bill collectors at times," Drumm said. “You could change somebody's life by giving them a ticket for several hundred dollars and somebody who could least afford and I’ve always thought there’s got to be a better way.”
The commission will be meeting again on the issue next month to discuss further recommendations for police departments.
State police were included in the report last year. They were present on Thursday, but were being handled separately based on their wide areas of coverage.
The report can be found here.