Top Connecticut police union official underreported infractions, data shows
At a recent legislative hearing, Rep. Robyn Porter put one of the Connecticut State Police Union’s top officials on the spot when she asked if he’d ever submitted false statistics to the state’s racial profiling database or failed to submit information as required by law.
Andrew Matthews first seemed unsure if the question was addressed to him. But when the New Haven Democrat said it was, Matthews quickly defended himself.
“I would never do that. In my 20-plus years as a state trooper,” Matthews, the union’s executive director, legal counsel and former president, responded.
The informational hearing, along with multiple federal and state investigations, was the byproduct of a report released by state auditors earlier this summer. The 79-page document revealed that state troopers and constables may have eroded the accuracy of the state’s profiling system by submitting phony traffic tickets or not reporting traffic stops — the former referred to as “overreporting,” the latter as “underreporting.”
But an analysis of the data used by the auditors, which The Connecticut Mirror obtained through an open records request, shows that Matthews had the second-most underreported infractions out of the 1,301 state troopers examined from 2014 to 2021.
Matthews’ badge number is associated in the data with 224 infractions from 2014 through 2021 that were not reported to the profiling database, an apparent violation of state law. Fifty percent of his infractions were flagged as underreported.
He also may have overreported 27 traffic tickets, the data shows, possibly a criminal act if an investigation finds that he did so with intent.
In an interview with the CT Mirror, Matthews denied that he ever falsified information.
“I did nothing wrong, absolutely nothing wrong, acted with the utmost integrity and professionalism and never falsified any records. That’s how silly this whole story is,” Matthews said, adding that he isn’t suggesting that no troopers were engaged in misconduct. “But they have the right to due process. And if it’s determined that there are troopers that did … then they should be held accountable.”
While auditors did not seek to determine intent, it was determined that the inaccurate data reflected more infractions for white drivers and fewer for Black and Hispanic motorists. No fraudulent tickets were issued to actual people, police said.
“The real question is, if there was true intent in your heart and your mind, if you intended to skew the results because there is some underlying racial issue, then you don’t belong,” Matthews told officials. “But I don’t think that’s the majority of it, and I hope I’m right. I think there’s a difference between fake tickets and racial data issues.”
Since the audit’s release, Matthews has signed on as co-counsel in a legal complaint asking a judge to block the public release of names of 130 state troopers — the number of individuals identified by auditors who had more than 20% of their overall traffic stop records uncorroborated in any given year, combined with those who had more than eight unmatched records in any given year. The names have been requested by news organizations through the Freedom of Information Act.
Matthews was also copied on a recent vote of no confidence letter sent from the union’s current president, Todd Fedigan, to James Rovella, the commissioner of the agency overseeing State Police. The letter, among other things, condemned Rovella for failing to “defend us against unwarranted criticism and blatantly false allegations within the Traffic Stop Data Audit Report, which was meant to create a lack of public trust and confidence in law enforcement.”
But Matthews’ status as one of the state troopers — he retired in 2018 — implicated in the ticketing scandal raises questions about his comments about the audit’s findings and his involvement with any ongoing investigations and legal proceedings.
Matthews said the underreporting, which he doesn’t think “is the real issue,” likely stems from him having to drive an outdated work vehicle that didn’t have electronic reporting equipment. Therefore, he hand-wrote many of his tickets, he said, and communicated the required information to dispatchers. He said it’s possible dispatchers didn’t enter his information as required. He thinks auditors failed to account for the latter in their report.
“I’m calling in either on the radio or on the phone, and I’m saying to the dispatchers who are not very happy that we’re calling in and bothering them, ‘Hey, this is a traffic stop I had … this is the racial profiling information.’ It’s their responsibility to put it into the computer,” he said.
In a statement to the CT Mirror, the State Police confirmed that “troopers and constables are not obligated to ensure information was entered correctly.” Supervisors now conduct a monthly review of traffic stops in their system to ensure compliance with required reporting of data and truthfulness of all records submitted, the statement noted.
Porter, the legislator who asked Matthews about whether he’d failed to comply with the law, did not return calls for comment. Sen. Herron Gaston, co-chair of the Public Safety and Security Committee, one of the two committees who organized the legislative hearing, said he would find it “deeply troubling” if Matthews acted with intent.
“If, in fact, any of that is true, then I think that he certainly needs to be held accountable,” Gaston, D-Bridgeport, said. “When Rep. Porter asked him the question of whether or not he had engaged in any of that activity, he was quick to say no, and he challenged the delegation to essentially look into his record, and in fact if they found something that was perceived to be nefarious … then he should be held accountable. And so, therefore, using his own words during the hearing, we certainly need to hold him accountable, especially considering that he’s deeply involved in this process.”
Rep. Greg Howard, the top House Republican on the Public Safety and Security Committee, pointed out that the audit merely identifies discrepancies in the data, not misconduct. So to jump to conclusions that Matthews or others engaged in intentional wrongdoing, he said, would be premature. He also said he doesn’t see Matthews’ proximity to the ticketing scandal — the legal dispute and the vote of no confidence — as a conflict of interest.
“If Andy Matthews is being accused of something, he has every right to represent himself. Everybody has a right to self-representation,” said Howard, R-Stonington, a detective with the Stonington Police Department. “And, frankly, I think he may be the best guy to defend them because he understands the intricacies of how things work.”
After sharing with legislators last month that he never intentionally falsified information or failed to submit data, Matthews acknowledged that he was notified just before the hearing by State Police Col. Stavros Mellekas that, in 2018, he was flagged in an internal audit as someone who had discrepancies.
In 2018, State Police officials opened internal investigations into four troopers who were found to have fabricated tickets for better assignments, pay increases, promotions and specialty vehicles. The information didn’t go public until last summer, when Hearst Connecticut Media Group obtained the internal reports through FOIA requests. Hearst’s reporting was the catalyst for the state audit.
Officials in 2018 had also looked into data submitted by other troopers and found that Matthews had 46 discrepancies over an eight-month period, according to an internal report, which he attributed at the hearing to dispatchers not properly submitting information he provided verbally from his handwritten tickets.
However, he wasn’t investigated any further because State Police officials set the foundation for further inquiry at people with 50 or more discrepancies. It was not made clear how they came up with the formula.
“Some day, not just me, but several other people on that list are going to be owed an apology,” Matthews told the CT Mirror. Further, just because a state audit flagged people, he said, “by no means does it mean that a trooper did something illegal or improper … that’s the offensive thing in all of this mess.”
Matthews wasn’t out enforcing traffic as much as many other troopers during the time period the audit reviewed. Before retiring in 2018, he was a sergeant in the Traffic Services Unit while also serving as the union’s president, a job that took up most of his time.
The audit detailed how researchers were unable to corroborate 25,966 traffic stops submitted to the racial profiling database, while indicating that the number of falsified records could possibly reach 58,553.
Ken Barone, one of the report’s authors and a project manager for the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project, a group collecting traffic data and helping identify and address racial and ethnic disparities, maintains that researchers never sought to establish intent.
“It is not my job to do a forensic review. We took all of the information we had, and we spent time and gave ample opportunity for the State Police to weigh in to tell us things that they wanted us to consider. And we did that,” Barone said. “At some point, the product has to be done. And I’m sure the State Police would have appreciated it if we just waited for them to come up with every reason why there could be a discrepancy.”
Barone described the report’s methodology as “conservative,” so much so that it accounted for any scenario that he thinks would have called the conclusions into question.
“At some point, you just have to accept the findings,” Barone said.
And because of the report’s findings, the state now knows that the racial profiling data it has relied upon to make public policy is “worthless” due to the overreporting and underreporting, said Rep. Steven Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, co-chair of the Judiciary Committee.
“Yes, I do think it is premature to make any conclusions with respect to any individual trooper. I hope there are a number of these troopers who maybe made clerical mistakes or were negligent in entering data,” Stafstrom said. “Is there a level of accountability that should result from that? Potentially. But, also, do I believe there may be troopers out there who intentionally either under- or overreported their data? Likely. And so we need to sort out one group from the other and just sort out the negligence from the intentionality.”
In recent weeks, both the federal Department of Transportation and the Department of Justice have opened investigations into the ticketing scandal. Gov. Ned Lamont has also appointed Deirdre Daly, formerly a federal prosecutor under President Barack Obama, to investigate “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.”
Matthews sits near the forefront of the union’s efforts to oppose any actions that it feels are meant to foster distrust of law enforcement. In the court filing to block the release of state troopers’ names to the public, the union’s attorneys argue that releasing any names would offend the “characters of potentially innocent troopers and further subjecting them to unwarranted scrutiny.”
The vote of no confidence letter blamed Rovella and Mellekas for “allowing others to publicly make false allegations, destroy the morale of our troopers and dismantle the reputation of the State Police.”
Matthews now says he’s “glad” that his numbers have come up in the audit. He believes it points to the report’s flaws.
“I’m not concerned at all about this. This is all, in my opinion, an overreaction to something that’s not completely accurate,” Matthews said. “And it is true at the end of this audit or the end of this story, that the audit in its current form will be discredited.”