First enacted in 1999, Connecticut’s anti-racial profiling law entitled, the Alvin W. Penn Racial Profiling Prohibition Act, prohibits any law enforcement agency from stopping, detaining, or searching any motorist when the stop is motivated solely by considerations of the race, color, ethnicity, age, gender or sexual orientation of that individual (Connecticut General Statutes Sections 54-1l and 54-1m). In 2012 and 2013, the Connecticut General Assembly made several changes to this law to create a system to address racial profiling concerns in Connecticut. At the same time, the Racial Profiling Prohibition Project Advisory Board was established to advise OPM and to help oversee the implementation of the changes to the law. The Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy (IMRP) at Central Connecticut State University was also tasked to help oversee the design, evaluation, and management of the racial profiling study mandated by the new law.
Through September 30, 2013, police agencies collected traffic stop information based on requirements outlined in the original 1999 Alvin W. Penn law. Beginning October 1, 2013, police agencies had to submit traffic stop data for analysis under the new methods outlined by the Office of Policy and Management (OPM), as required by the amended racial profiling prohibition law. The law also authorized the OPM secretary to order appropriate penalties (i.e., the withholding of state funds) when municipal police departments, the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP), and other police departments fail to comply.
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) provide substantial resources for this project through a grant administered by the Connecticut Department of Transportation. The Racial Profiling Prohibition Project Advisory Board have been meeting on a monthly basis since May 2012 in an effort to successfully implement and oversee the requirements of the 2012 and 2013 legislation. The focus of the project’s early phase was to better understand traffic stop data collection in other states. After an extensive review of best practices, working groups were formed to discuss the different aspects of the project.
The advisory board and IMRP also worked with law enforcement officials to create a data collection system that is efficient, not burdensome to the police collecting it, and provides information that is easy to work with when it is submitted. Police agencies in Connecticut vary in their levels of sophistication and technological capacity with respect to how they collect and report data. The project staff worked with the state’s Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) to develop a system to collect consistent and universal traffic stop information and submit it to CJIS electronically on a monthly basis.
Although much of the initial focus of this project was to develop a standardized method for data collection and analysis, there are other important components. The initiatives include a public awareness and education campaign, effective training for officers and departments, and a rigorous complaint process. These initiatives collectively represent different tools available for education and the prevention of racial profiling in policing. These tools were implemented in the hope of building and enhancing trust between communities and law enforcement in Connecticut.
Lastly, a major component of addressing concerns about the possibility of racial profiling in Connecticut is bringing law enforcement officials and community members together to discuss relationships between police and the community. The project staff has conducted several public forums throughout the state to bring these groups together and will continue these dialogues in the foreseeable future. They serve as an important tool to inform the public of their rights and the role of law enforcement in serving their communities.