Recently, a year long study of police traffic stops in Connecticut has identified 10 police departments and two state police barracks where there appear to be racial disparities in who gets pulled over. In those police departments, minority individuals were pulled over at a disproportionate rate with more of the traffic stops occurring during the day, when an individual’s ethnicity would be visible to the officer. Connecticut may not think of itself as a state where racial bias is an issue, and it is true that Connecticut hasn’t had any incidents similar to Michael Brown, Eric Gardner, or Walter Scott that have led to uproar over police and race. However, this does not mean it is not an issue and should not be addressed.
Police chiefs from some of the departments in the study, such as Wethersfield Police Chief James Cetran, questioned the results and said “I truly believe our officers are not biased or racially profiling anyone.” Andrew Matthews, president of the Connecticut State Police Union and a state police sergeant, denied any sort of systemic racial issue with Connecticut police, saying, “I’m 100 percent confident there is no motivated, intentional discrimination on behalf of our members. The public should know this is not a systemic problem with the state police.”
While the police chiefs may be confident that their departments are not engaging in racial profiling and discriminating behavior, this study at least warrants a discussion and creates a need for further investigation into each of the departments. Even if there are only a few officers in the department engaging in discriminatory activity, as opposed to the whole department, it is still an issue that needs to be investigated and addressed.
This study and recent events also highlight the need for cameras as a means of addressing racial issues in police departments. While officers are currently required to electronically file reports for every traffic stop, cameras would help identify police behavior and whether officers were harassing minority individuals. Cameras could also be helpful in other areas for ensuring that cops are performing their jobs correctly and effectively. The importance of body cameras cannot be overstated especially when considering that without bystanders using their phones to record what happened in the cases of Eric Gardner and Walter Scott, these issues would have likely blown over and may have never been addressed.