IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Could AI Assess Connecticut State Trooper Traffic Stops?

Poor traffic stop practices could be predicted, and bad practices called out in real time by artificial intelligence, according to a new report commissioned in the wake of a falsified ticket data scandal.

A law enforcement officer writes a ticket on a clipboard, to a young man in a gray car.
(TNS) — A national consultant is recommending monthly audits of police traffic stops in Connecticut to restore public confidence following the highly-publicized scandal involving state troopers falsifying ticket data.

The recommendation was outlined in a report commissioned by the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project, a state-funded group that analyzes traffic stop data.

"The goal was to devise a system that ensures integrity of traffic stop data collection," Jeff Schlanger, founder of IntegrAssure, a national consultant for police practices, recently told the profiling project's board.

"As we all know, data, even when completely accurate, does not tell the whole story," Schlanger said. "Our approach hopes to do more to improve the performance of individual officers through a process of continued improvement."

IntregrAssure's report recommends every officer conducting traffic patrols undergo a random audit of three traffic stops a month and additional assessments for stops involving use of force, display of firearms, searches and other forms of direct police involvement with motorists.

The report also envisioned using artificial intelligence to predict poor traffic stop patterns and flag those practices in real time.

"AI could also be employed to assess the 'apparent' race, age, and gender of a driver using advanced image recognition algorithms," the IntegrAssure report said. "While there are serious ethical and accuracy considerations to address in the development of such technology, the goal would be to reduce subjective human reporting errors."

The report comes as a federal grand jury continues to a criminal investigation into state police ticketing practices after an audit conducted by the profiling board found a "high likelihood" hundreds of state troopers over an eight-year period submitted at least 26,000 false and inaccurate traffic stop data records to the state police computer system. A subsequent report commissioned by Governor Ned Lamont concluded most troopers flagged likely did not intentionally falsify the data, but between 12 and 15 troopers were referred for further investigation to examine potential wrongdoing.

The audit was prompted by CT Insider reports in 2022 about four troopers who were found to have created hundreds of "fictitious" tickets within the state police system to boost their production numbers and look better in the eyes of supervisors.

No motorist received a fake ticket, according to officials; the infraction data was never sent to the state courts for adjudication.

Ken Barone, director of the profiling project, said the IntegrAssure report is a good starting point for discussion about how to improve traffic stop data, which is used to track racial profiling patterns. Under state law, all departments must report motorist demographic information gleaned during those stops to the racial profiling project.

"We hired them for a report about how we can improve integrity of our data in wake of what happened with the state police and what police agencies should be doing and what the project should be doing," Barone said.

The report by IntegrAssure does not address the possible high cost of implementing its comprehensive system of checks and balances, leaving that discussion to state officials.

"Now we have to figure out what we are capable of doing," Barone added. "The goal of this report was to be a starting point and our goal is to take the report and develop a model policy to ensure the data we are getting is of high quality."

Barone said any new policies resulting from the process would be sent to the state Police Officers Standards and Training Council, which certifies officers, for possible implementation as statewide standards.

"Some of this is going to be an easy lift and some will be a harder lift, but it's a good path forward," Barone said. "The cost is something we are going to have to figure out."

During the profiling project's board meeting last week, State Police Lt. Col. Mark Davison said departments already conduct audits of selected traffic stops.

"Quite a bit has been uncovered from front line supervisors auditing their personnel," Davison said. "Every police department does reviews for high level items and general reviews."

Rick Green, a spokesman for the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection which oversees several agencies including the state police, said the agency is implementing reforms based upon "the framework and recommended remedial measures outlined" in the report commissioned by Lamont.

That report, led by former U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly and her colleagues at the Stamford-based law firm Finn Dixon & Herling, also recommended annual audits of traffic stop data to "ensure reliability and accuracy" and rotating audits of specific state police troops.

Overall, the Daly report found "significant failures by the Connecticut State Police with respect to the reporting of racial profiling data. The failures demonstrate inadequate leadership, judgment, and initiative."

Barone said the IntegrAssure report offers different levels of auditing, random checks on a regular basis and targeted checks after high level encounters such as use of force or body searches.

"The report talks about a number of steps but says most generally that we have body worn cameras and dash cameras in cars so we should have some supervisors go in and check and verify what's being reported," Barone added.

The report noted: "the recommendations outlined in this report are not mere suggestions but a call to action — a comprehensive framework designed to elevate the integrity of traffic stop data collection to a standard that reflects the principles of justice and equality."

©2024 Journal Inquirer, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.