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Audit: Police underreporting required racial profiling data

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Police in Connecticut’s capital city have failed to report thousands of traffic stops as required by a state law aimed to prevent racial profiling, data analysts said Friday.

Hartford police submitted records for about 2,000 traffic stops between Oct. 1, 2015, and Sept. 30, 2016, but dispatch logs show there were about 6,500 stops during the same period, according to an audit by analysts at Central Connecticut State University.

Police brass said they are confident officers collected the required data and they’re looking into why data from several thousand paper forms filled out by officers weren’t submitted. They said there might have been a computer problem or a data-entry problem.

There also may be similar underreporting problems in Bridgeport and New London, but officials in those cities have not responded to requests to see their dispatch logs, said Ken Barone, an analyst with the university’s Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy. The institute compiles the statewide traffic stop data, which officials say is the most comprehensive examination of police stops in any U.S. state.

The Hartford audit was discussed Friday at a meeting of the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project Advisory Board, which oversees the data collection and expressed concern that underreporting problems would damage public confidence.

Members said they were considering whether to warn Hartford and other cities that they could lose state funding for failing to submit accurate data. They also noted that the vast majority of the more than 100 police agencies in the state are complying with the reporting requirements.

“I think at the very least we need to put these departments on notice,” said board member David McGuire, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut. “This is really troublesome.”

Board Chairman William Dyson, a former state lawmaker, added, “The intent is not to smear any department. The intent is to have credible data.”

Analysts also said there were a variety of errors on the Hartford forms they did receive.

Hartford is one of only a few departments in the state that has officers fill out paper forms after each traffic stop. Officers in nearly every other department enter information on their in-vehicle computers.

Hartford Deputy Police Chief Brian Foley said there appeared to be problems with entering data from the paper forms into a computer system, or in sending the data to the institute.

Foley said police officials are investigating, and similar problems in the future should be avoided because officers will be entering the data into computers in their vehicles.

Police officials in Bridgeport and New London did not immediately return messages Friday.

The Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy has been compiling the data since October 2013 for reports analyzing the race and ethnicity of drivers stopped by police and why they were stopped.

The reports have said Connecticut police stop black and Hispanic drivers at disproportionately high rates.

The most recent data showed police statewide reported making about 586,000 traffic stops between Oct. 1, 2014, and Sept. 30, 2015.

About 14 percent of the stops involved black drivers, while black people of driving age comprise 9 percent of the state’s population. Nearly 13 percent of traffic stops involved Hispanic drivers, while Hispanics of driving age comprise 12 percent of Connecticut residents.

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