HARTFORD — Connecticut is poised to release a comprehensive statewide report on racial profiling by police early next month.
Members of the Racial Profiling Advisory Board have been meeting for more than two years to devise a fair and accurate way to assess whether police are unfairly targeting black and Hispanic motorists.
The issue is especially timely given the current crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, said the group's chairman, former state Rep. William Dyson. Protests and what many have described as an overly aggressive police response in that suburban St. Louis town were sparked by the shooting of an unarmed African American teenager.
"We are far ahead … of many other states on this issue,'' Dyson said. "We had our awakening some time in the past and we responded to that."
Dyson was referring to a massive racial profiling-police abuse scandal in East Haven in 2012, when the FBI arrested four officers after a lengthy investigation into police discrimination against Latinos.
A few months later, the legislature voted to bolster Connecticut's long-standing prohibition on racial profiling. Police had been required to record basic demographic information on the drivers stopped for traffic violations. But the rule was widely ignored and the state did little to enforce it.
The new law passed after the East Haven scandal requires the state to create a standardized form to record information from traffic stops, including the race, age, gender and ethnicity of the driver, as well as the name and badge number of the officer. The law also created the advisory board to collect and analyze the data and it requires police to provide a written notice to motorists that they have the right to file a complaint.
The report, which members of the panel say they expect to release after Labor Day, will provide a sweeping picture of traffic stops in the state. It will examine when the stops occur, whether during daytime or at night with adjustments based on time of year, and how many people live and work in a community.
Data will be provided for 169 towns plus state police and other special law enforcement agencies, such as police on the state's college campuses and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
"It's just a lot of data to comb through,'' said Ken Barone, a policy and research specialist at the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy at Central Connecticut State University, which is coordinating the data collection and analysis.
The scope of the effort puts Connecticut far ahead of other states, said Jim Fazzalaro, a member of the advisory board. "What we're doing in Connecticut is an extraordinary effort when you look at what has happened in other places,'' he said.
Only Massachusetts and Rhode Island have attempted to collect this type of data on a statewide level, Fazzalaro said. "What we are doing here … has really not been attempted on this level anywhere else.''
Dyson said the crisis in Missouri has focused public attention on racial profiling. "I would hope that people would take note of the fact we are trying to work at it,'' he said. "We've been at it for a while … The evidence of our work will be manifested in our report."Copyright © 2015, CT Now