In some CT towns, minority drivers more likely to be pulled over

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Among some police departments there continue to be significant disparities between white and minority drivers in traffic stops and in whether those stops result in tickets or searches, according to an analysis of police traffic stops in Connecticut released today.

The Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy at Central Connecticut State University presented their annual report to lawmakers in which they analyzed 586,000 traffic stops conducted by Connecticut State Police and local police departments between October 2014 and September 2015.

Departments with highest rates of stops
Town Stops per 1,000 drivers Traffic stops Driving population
Newtown 494 9,956 20,171
Ridgefield 426 7,713 18,111
Orange 418 4,601 11,017
Old Saybrook 408 3,402 8,330
Monroe 389 5,800 14,918
New Canaan 379 5,355 14,138
Wilton 368 4,773 12,973
Berlin 360 5,783 16,083
Bloomfield 309 5,241 16,982
Ansonia 305 4,574 14,979
CCSU Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy

Researchers said it was likely that specific departments were driving the statewide trends and that those were affected by a small number of individual officers.

Nine police departments and one State Police troop were statistically more likely to pull over minority drivers during daylight hours when their race is more easily visible.

Five police departments that had significant racial or ethnic disparities in traffic stop patterns were Bloomfield, New Milford, Norwalk, West Hartford, Wethersfield, and State Police Troop H in Hartford.

Other police departments that exceeded the racial disparity threshold were East Hartford, Granby, Groton Town, Hamden, New Britain, Stratford, Waterbury, and State Police Troop C in Tolland. Meriden, Newington, Trumbull, and Windsos were also flagged based on another benchmark analysis.

Researchers stressed that evidence of racial and ethnic disparities do not, by themselves, provide conclusive evidence of racial profiling. However, statistical disparities do provide significant evidence to warrant an in-depth look into departments.

Departments with lowest rates of stops
Town Stops per 1,000 drivers Traffic stops Driving population
Shelton 18 579 32,010
Portland 24 178 7,480
Wolcott 28 371 13,175
Waterbury 29 2,408 83,964
Middlebury 30 177 5,843
East Hampton 45 457 10,255
Weston 50 361 7,255
Bridgeport 51 5,603 109,401
Meriden 57 2,700 47,445
Winchester 61 555 9,133
CCSU Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy

In 2011, only 27 of 103 departments submitted traffic stop data. This year, all departments participated— some are beginning to include latitude and longitude specifications that open up many more possibilities for analysis.

In their report last year, the agency recommended all departments participate in the Department of Justice’s training program on “Fair and Impartial Policing.” Since then, more than 1,000 officers have gone through the training.

Officials say it’s an important step toward developing a transparent dialogue between law enforcement and the public.

Connecticut is one of the few states to release this level of specific data and to require law enforcement agencies to submit regular updates on all traffic stops. The state is leading the nation in addressing the issue of racial profiling, according to the report.


The institute analyzed enhanced data collected under revisions passed in 2013 to a 1999 law, the Alvin W. Penn Racial Profiling Prohibition Act.

Several benchmarks were applied to the data, including the “veil of darkness” approach, comparing daylight stops to those after dark, when a police officer is presumably less apt to know the race of a motorist until the car is stopped and approached.

Trend CT will lead readers through different aspects of this report next week in a series of stories and a database that readers can use to look up department-level details.

Future stories include:

  • A look at departments that exhibit the most statistically significant racial or ethnic disparity in traffic stops.
  • An analysis of which neighborhoods drivers were stopped in most often.
  • Which departments have officers that affect the disparity the most.
  • A look at when drivers are most likely to be stopped by police
  • A searchable comprehensive database
Overall trends

About two-thirds of drivers stopped in Connecticut were male and about 87 percent of drivers were state residents.

More drivers under the age of 30 were pulled over (38 percent) than drivers older than 50 (23 percent).

Most of the drivers pulled over in Connecticut by police were were white, non-Hispanic drivers (70.6 percent). About 14 percent were black non-Hispanic drivers and 12.5 percent were Hispanic drivers. About 3 percent of the drivers were Asian/Pacific Islander non-Hispanics and American Indian/Alaskan Native Non-Hispanic drivers.

Drivers were most often pulled over for speeding (26 percent).

The second-most-common violation was cell phone use at 10 percent.

Almost half of the drivers pulled over ended up with a traffic ticket. About 45 percent were let off with a warning. This ratio varies department to department, and we’ll look into that in future stories.

Portland and Suffield lead other departments in the state with the highest ratio of speeding tickets given out after a speed-related stop, 69 and 62 percent respectively.

On average, 25.5 percent of all traffic tickets given out by local police were speed-related. The average for state police was higher at 31 percent.

There was a noticeable increase in stops related to distracted driving, coinciding with federal grants to help local law enforcement agencies target cell phone violators.

Between September 2014 and October 2015, if a driver was pulled over in Hartford, chances are police gave that driver a ticket. Especially if that driver was using his or her cell phone.

Some communities may view infraction tickets as the best method to increase traffic safety, while others may consider warnings to be more effective, according to the report.

These charts show which departments place more emphasis on which method.

What do you think?

  • ctyankee22

    No surprise that Ridgefield is still near the top of the list.

    Where is the entry for “Driving While Black” (DWB)? I suppose some departments (cough-ridgefield-cough) simply list ‘speeding’ on the ticked when stopping people for, or should I say fit the DWB profile. All I can say is some things never change. Back in the 90’s I worked in that quaint little hamlet. I personally never had a run-in with the police, but then I never committed a DWB… My bookkeeper on the other hand. She suffered the indignities inflicted by the RPD on numerous occasions.

    When our offices were burned out by the fire behind Bedient’s Hardware, I was relieved that I’d never have to drive, or park, in that town ever again. Their parking bureau was an unscrupulous thieving bunch that would ticket cars even with the parking sticker prominently displayed. Several times they ticketed every single one of my employees, simply because we parked in a group! I wasted more hours than I can count crossing the street to City Hall and waiting for the ‘Commissioner’ to be available, each time getting the tickets nollied en-masse. Each time being told I should just pay the fines — because it would be quicker.

  • Lenny Singleton

    This isn’t surprising. Racial disparity is happening all over this country. Every aspect of the criminal justice system suffers from it – from the police on the streets to the judges in the courtrooms. Let me share one of the worst cases of racial disparity in the country – Lenny Singleton (shown in the profile pic).

    Lenny committed 8 “grab & dash” robberies in a 7 day period while high on alcohol and crack to fund his addiction. He did not have a gun. He did not murder anyone. In fact, no one was even physically injured and no one claimed to be his “victim.” He stole less than $550 total and these were his first felonies. He wasn’t an habitual criminal or part of a gang. He earned a college degree and served in our Navy before his addiction.

    What he needed was some help with his addiction. What he got was 2 Life Sentences plus 100 years with no chance
    at parole. The judge, without any explanation to Lenny or the courtroom as documented by his court transcripts, sentenced Lenny to more time than repeat violent offenders, rapists, child molesters, and murderers. A woman who killed her own infant child was just sentenced to 15 years in the state that Lenny is incarcerated in. Murderers will walk free while Lenny remains in prison. And had he been white, he would have never received this kind of sentence.

    While in prison, Lenny works every business day in a position of authority, he lives in the Honor’s Dorm, he takes every available class for self-improvement offered, and in his spare time, he has co-authored a book to help others headed down the same path called, “Love Conquers All,” now available on Amazon. During the entire 20+ years he has been in prison so far, he has not received a single infraction for anything – very rare for lifers. Lenny is deserving of a second chance.

    How does this have an impact on you? Taxpayers will pay well over a million dollars to keep Lenny for the rest of
    his life – for robbing less than $550 in crimes where no one was physically injured – this makes absolutely no sense on any level. That money would be better spent on rehabilitation services, preventative education or rebuilding
    infrastructures – anything other than keeping one man, who has already been in prison for over 20 years, who didn’t physically injure anyone, who is deserving of a second chance, locked up for life. These types of cases exist all over this country, albeit, that Lenny Singleton’s case is possibly one of the worst illustrating sentencing disparity and sentences disproportionate to the crime committed. True criminal justice reform needs to not only happen at the federal
    level but at the state level too and the racial disparity that is occurring at every level of the criminal justice system needs to be addressed and stopped.

    Please learn more and sign Lenny Singleton’s petition at Justice will not have been
    served if Lenny dies in prison.