The city of Bridgeport may soon see grant money withheld by Connecticut’s budget office, as the state investigates why Bridgeport’s police department has failed to provide complete data about traffic stops.
There’s a state statute called the Alvin W. Penn Racial Profiling Prohibition Act that has compelled police departments to make data available on every traffic stop since October 1, 2013.
Central Connecticut State University’s Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy collects and analyzes traffic stop data. Ken Barone, IMRP’s policy and research specialist, said that Bridgeport reported between 7,000 and 8,000 stops in the first year of data collection. Two years later, for 2015-16, the number of stops reported dropped to 2,000. That prompted Barone’s unit to audit the department and also check for data in the city’s dispatch logs.
"It had turned out that Bridgeport did not report several thousand traffic stops. But it was difficult to pinpoint exactly how many they didn’t report," Barone said. "From our audit of the data that was reported, there were a large number of the stops where the data entered into the system had some error in it," Barone said.
Barone said IMRP couldn’t even prove if the data from the first two years was accurate because he was told that paper forms used to collect information on the stops were destroyed by the police department.
Until May of this year, Bridgeport was one of just a few police departments in the state that didn’t turn in the information electronically. And even now, Barone said the switch doesn’t solve the problem with past data.
“Unfortunately we’re still required to analyze data on an annual basis and so, we’re five years into this project and we now have to wait another 12 months to get a good solid data set from Bridgeport to be able to analyze,” Barone said. “So, what that means is that Bridgeport hasn’t really had a thorough analysis of their traffic stop data for five years when every other department has.”
Jack Drumm, the police chief in Madison, said that beyond wanting to be compliant with the state’s request, participating in this project allows for public transparency.
“I think that in the times in this country, particularIy what’s happened in Ferguson and others, I think the time has come that you have to partner with the public,” Drumm said. “You truly have to show them this is what we do and this is why we do it. Here is our information and it’s open to anyone to review.”
Connecticut Public Radio reached out to the Bridgeport Police Department several times for comment but had not received a response as of August 7.
Barone said a statewide racial profiling advisory board has written a letter to the state outlining the problems associated with Bridgeport’s reporting of traffic stop data.