Berlin and Meriden police departments to be analyzed following racial profiling report

Berlin and Meriden police departments to be analyzed following racial profiling report

Record-Journal

Berlin and Meriden police departments will be analyzed following a recent report on Connecticut police traffic stops that cites local departments as having significantly high rates of pulling over minorities.

While Meriden was included in last year’s report and given a follow-up report in July, Berlin was noted for the first time this year for data ranging from October 2015 to September 2016.

Police Chief John Klett responded to the report released last week by Central Connecticut State University analysts.

“The Berlin Police Department has not had time to adequately review the data in this report prior to its release,” he said. “The department has not been noted on either of the two previous reports and only for the “Veil of Darkness” in this one.”

The assumption of “The Veil of Darkness” methodology is that profiling is more likely to take place during daylight hours when race and ethnicity is more visible.

The report found for Berlin that the odds of a black motorist being stopped during daylight was 3.4 times larger than the odds during darkness. The odds of a Hispanic motorist being stopped during daylight was 1.7 times larger than during darkness.

The department was reported to have made 25.6 percent minority stops, 13.3 percent Hispanic and 9.4 percent were Black motorists, from October 2015 to September 2016.

Ken Barone, policy and research specialist for the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy at Central Connecticut State University, said the report took it one step further this year and added weather as a visibility factor in relation to traffic stops.

“This doesn’t mean they’re the worst department,” Barone said about the towns identified, including Berlin. “We need to understand the factors driving these disparities that warrant further analysis.”

A limited analysis will be done for Meriden based on the new disparities identified regarding the “Veil of Darkness” technique. The recent report found that the odds of a black motorist being stopped during daylight in the city was 2.6 times larger than the odds during darkness.

Meriden received an in-depth analysis due to last year’s report, which identified the police department as having consistent racial disparities.

In May 2016, City Police Chief Jeffry Cossette criticized the study for not reflecting a true picture of the city's driving traffic and Hispanic population. 

He said the report incorrectly assumed that the racial and ethnic makeup of the city was similar throughout, when the census tract data stated otherwise. 

“The census tract data clearly defines the racial and ethic makeup of the inner city being vastly different than the rest of the city,” he said last year on the Meriden Police Department Facebook page.

Cossette was out of town Monday and not available for comment on the latest study.

Deputy Chief Mark Walerysiak said Monday vehicles are not stopped in Meriden without reason.

“Many police departments around Connecticut may be concerned the report is not entirely accurate to begin with,” he said.

The Connecticut Police Chief’s Association released a letter in response to the latest study voicing its concern about the validity of the reports. The association conducted a peer review of the 2015 and 2016 studies.

“Due to the critiques provided in the peer reviews, CPCA ( Connecticut Police Chief’s Association) has reservations regarding the validity of these reports. These concerns are amplified by the lack of academic and research credentials of the IMRP (Institute for Municipal & Regional Policy) staff,” said Chief John Gavallas, president of the association, in the letter.

Barone said Monday the criticism from the association was a “head scratcher” due to the association’s previous participation in the creation of the methodology used in the studies.

“We’ve never tried to say our methodology is perfect,” Barone said. “I think unfortunately it’s likely the Chief’s Association is trying to distance themselves from the process.”

The follow-up report on Meriden, and other towns identified in the year two report last year, was released in July.

Deputy Chief Walerysiak said he could not comment on the analysis process of the department based on the report last year as he was not involved.

Barone said racial disparities in Meriden showed up again in roughly the same inner-city areas though the disparities were not larger or more significant than previous years.

He said some disparity is out of law enforcement control.

“I won’t be surprised if it’s a smaller disparity but still there,” Barone said of next year’s report for Meriden.

Some recommendations made to Meriden following July’s in-depth report included educating the community more about why and when enforcement will be located in specific areas of the city. 

Barone said the city has been good about properly documenting what citizens are calling the department about regarding law enforcement issues.

In the case of Berlin, the department will meet with the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy to discuss next steps regarding an in-depth analysis.

A follow-up report will likely be released in early spring with another annual state-wide report in the summer.

akus@record-journal.com
203-317-2448
Twitter: @KusReporter


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