Lamont taps former U.S. attorney to probe state police ticket scandal
Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday that he was handpicking former federal prosecutor Deirdre Daly to head an independent investigation into a state police scandal involving the widespread falsification of traffic stop tickets.
Lamont announced that Daly’s inquiry would determine “how and why the misconduct occurred, why it went undetected for so long and what reforms should be implemented to ensure that such misconduct does not reoccur.” The Obama-era prosecutor is also tasked with identifying “whether changes to the IT platforms or training materials could prevent mistaken entries.”
The advisory comes nearly a month after state auditors published a report detailing how they were unable to corroborate tens of thousands of traffic stop tickets submitted to Connecticut’s racial profiling system. The report outlined how the falsifications by state troopers and constables compromised the accuracy of the racial profiling data. The report also acknowledged that investigating the motives for the fabrications was not part of the audit.
Lamont said he was notified by Daly’s team of investigators that the examination would take at least three to six months. Once it concludes, the governor said, the report will be shared with the public.
“I have great faith in the overwhelming majority of our troopers,” Lamont said in a statement. “To protect public confidence in them we must get to the bottom of this and learn how it happened, why it happened, and how to prevent it from ever happening again.”
News of the independent investigation, a nod to the systemic nature of the potential wrongdoing, marks the latest chapter in the Connecticut State Police saga that has featured calls for more accountability and transparency.
Reporting last year by Hearst Connecticut Media Group revealed that four state troopers had fabricated hundreds of traffic stop tickets for better assignments, pay increases, promotions and specialty vehicles.
The individuals, Timothy Bentley, Noah Gouveia, Kevin Moore and Daniel Richter, were subject to internal affairs investigations at the time but had otherwise evaded public scrutiny. Moore and Richter received 10-day and two-day suspensions, respectively, after the investigation, while Bentley and Gouveia retired. Richter then retired in 2021. The three retired troopers still receive monthly pensions as of last month, while Moore is still an active employee.
Once the reports went public, auditors set out to review more than 800,000 infractions submitted by 1,301 troopers, stretching from 2014 to 2021.
A falsified record was one that did not reflect a real traffic stop event. An overreported infraction referred to records identified in the state’s racial profiling system but not in the court system. Underreported records were those found in the courts but not in the profiling data.
Researchers said they were unable to corroborate 25,966 stops submitted to the racial profiling database while indicating that the number of falsified records could possibly exceed 58,000. Overreported traffic infractions by state troopers were more likely to involve white-non Hispanic drivers while the underreported violations were more likely to include Black or Hispanic motorists, the report states.
More than 7,400 traffic stop records were falsified by constables, researchers said, though they likely had minimal impact on the state’s annual analysis of traffic data — given that constables contribute less than 5% of all stops reported by state police.
After the audit’s release, Chief State’s Attorney Patrick Griffin’s office said it was launching an investigation into “the information received recently through the academic report,” but declined to comment further on the nature of the inquiry or who it involved.
The investigation is expected to coincide with another criminal investigation into the four state troopers first identified by Hearst. That inquiry was being conducted jointly by prosecutors and state police, sparking concerns from criminal justice experts about the probe’s independence.
Adam Joseph, a spokesperson for Lamont, said Daly’s inquiry would be conducted separately from the ongoing criminal probe. Daly, an attorney at a Stamford law firm, did not return calls for comment.
In a statement, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner James Rovella expressed confidence that Daly’s investigation would “make good on our commitment to building trust between law enforcement personnel and the local communities in which they serve.”
State Police Colonel Stavros Mellekas said in a statement that he issued an order to all state troopers instructing them “to cooperate with the investigation and come forth with relevant information.”
On Wednesday, lawmakers are scheduled to hear from Ken Barone of the Racial Profiling Prohibition Project, the group responsible for the report, and a representative from Rovella’s agency, which oversees state troopers and constables, yet to be named. The Hartford forum will give legislators an opportunity to gather information about the report and its findings in a question and answer setting.
“This audit presents a real challenge for our state, and my colleagues and I will work to find a solution,” Democratic Sen. Herron Gaston, co-chair of the Public Safety and Security Committee, said in a statement earlier this month. “As we continue to conduct a thorough review of the audit, I am reaching out to community members while collaborating with law enforcement as we assess what actions will be taken from here.”
The Connecticut NAACP held its own public forum last week where members received a presentation from Barone and were able to ask questions about the findings. Scot X. Esdaile, the organization’s president, said at the meeting that his group’s leadership plans to request a meeting with the Justice Department to discuss the ticket scandal.
Joseph said Monday that Lamont has yet to receive any inquiries from federal authorities.
Regarding Daly’s appointment, he said she was selected after collaboration between the governor’s office and the attorney general to identify qualified attorneys in law firms throughout Connecticut.
In 2014, Daly was nominated by former President Barack Obama to serve as U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, a role she previously held in an interim capacity. Before that, she was the office’s second-in-command.