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West Hartford Police Chief Responds to ‘Veil of Darkness’ Traffic Stop Analysis

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The State of Connecticut’s 2014-2015 Traffic Stop Data Analysis Report, released last week, identified West Hartford as one of six police agencies that appeared to target black and Hispanic motorists more frequently for traffic stops.

West Hartford Police Department Badge

West Hartford Police Department Badge

By Ronni Newton

A statewide analysis released May 12 of more than 586,000 traffic stops noted that in five police departments and one State Police troop a statistically higher percentage of black and Hispanic drivers were stopped for traffic violations during daylight hours than during darkness.

The Racial Profiling Prohibition Project, a 292-page report, was based on traffic stop data between October 2014 and September 2015. The project utilized a “veil of darkness” analysis, comparing traffic stop data during the morning and evening, at times of year when it is dark at that time compared to when it is light at the same time and the race of ethnicity of a driver may be more visible.

Police departments in West Hartford, as well as Bloomfield, Wethersfield, New Milford, and Norwalk, and State Police Troop H in Hartford, were noted to have a statistical discrepancy.

West Hartford Police Chief Tracey Gove issued the following statement in response to the report:

On May 12 the State released its 2014 – 2015 Traffic Stop Data Analysis report. The study demonstrated that the overall traffic stop numbers by the West Hartford Police Department did not reveal any statistical disparities. The statistical disparity noted in the report occurs only after certain “weighted analysis” is done on the data by the CCSU researchers and daylight stops versus nighttime stops are compared using the “Veil of Darkness” analytical tools. We have taken a look at the traffic stop numbers and from our own analysis we have found no difference between the number of minority motorists being stopped during daylight versus evening hours. We have brought this to the attention of the researchers.

Further, we have found no difference in the rate of searches among all racial groups. Interestingly, Mr. Ken Barone, lead researcher for the Traffic Stop study, agreed with that analysis but added that in his analysis officers were more likely to find contraband when they searched Caucasian drivers which was what drove the disparity noted in the report.

No vehicle is stopped in West Hartford by a police officer without the driver having committed a motor vehicle violation or for a legitimate law enforcement reason. This report makes no claim or has any evidence to the contrary. The West Hartford Police Department has been a leader in ensuring that our officers police in a fair and impartial manner, and it is my firm belief that we do so, each and every day, across all situations and circumstances. Well before the release of this study – in September 2015 – we implemented Fair and Impartial Police Training for all of our officers and the training is currently being conducted by the lead author of this report, Mr. Ken Barone. We appreciate his willingness to get involved in training police officers throughout the region at our regional in-service training sessions.

We asked to meet with the researchers to better understand the discrepancies between our two analyses prior to the release of the report. We further wanted to discuss inaccurate assumptions and discrepancies in their tools to weigh data. Unfortunately they had to cancel our initial meeting and we have not had the opportunity to formally discuss our concerns. We look forward to working with the researchers so that we can both gain a better understanding of the report and all of the factors which may influence their weighted analysis.

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