Audit found widespread discrepancies with soldiers’ tickets

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A newly obtained internal audit reveals that Connecticut State Police supervisors in 2018 found significant discrepancies in the number of tickets issued by dozens of soldiers, raising questions about how carefully the agency reviewed whether four-agent counterfeit schemes were more prevalent.

“The audit is not as thorough as it should or could have been,” said Ken Barone, who leads a state-funded project that analyzes police citations to determine profiling trends. racial.

“There are a lot of soldiers here who have discrepancies,” added Barone, who is currently conducting his own review of state police ticket data.

The department’s 2018 audit, which Hearst Connecticut Media recently obtained through a public records request, compared information from two separate state police computer systems. The audit focused on the number of tickets issued by more than 700 soldiers during a nine-month period that year.

He found discrepancies in ticket numbers for almost three quarters of the soldiers. Often the numbers were skewed by a single or a handful of banknotes.

But, for 150 soldiers, the discrepancies reached double digits, and for more than a dozen soldiers, triple digits.

For their audit, state police supervisors “collectively decided” to closely examine only soldiers with discrepancies of 50 or more tickets – a threshold that Barone called “terrifyingly high for a nine-month review. “.

The audit identified 17 of these soldiers. But state police data pulled for the audit and reviewed by Hearst Connecticut Media shows that 35 soldiers had variances of 50 or more. It is unclear why less than half have been closely examined. State police declined to comment on the 2018 audit, citing an ongoing criminal investigation into counterfeit money schemes involving four soldiers.

Of the 17 soldiers the audit examined more closely, detailed explanations were only provided for five soldiers. For the rest, including several flagged for potential “misuse” of the ministry’s ticketing system, the audit offers little explanation.

State Police Commander Col. Stavros Mellekas previously said the audit found no additional examples of counterfeit notes and that false profiling data was not passed to the Racial Profiling Project.

But Barone said, based on his review of the audit, “I don’t know how they could come to that conclusion” that counterfeit schemes weren’t more prevalent.

“There appear to be other soldiers who may have falsified records,” said Barone, who analyzed the 2018 audit as part of his ongoing effort to see if Connecticut’s proposed racial profiling ban has provided inaccurate data due to false ticket patterns involving four soldiers. . “I don’t know if they investigated it or not.”

In late August, Hearst Connecticut Media Group reported that state police investigators in 2018 discovered that four soldiers collectively entered at least 636 counterfeit bills into the state police computer system over a nine-month period to give the impression that they were more productive than they actually were. . The soldiers did this for their own personal benefit – to curry favor and favors with supervisors, internal investigators concluded.

Following the Hearst Connecticut Media report, the state attorney general’s office launched a criminal investigation into the soldier’s actions, and Barone’s project launched its own review.

Audit

The state police conducted their audit in late 2018 shortly after internal investigators uncovered the schemes used by the four soldiers.

For the audit, state police supervisors examined two separate computer systems for discrepancies with the number of tickets issued by 709 soldiers. The audit noted that it did not review ticket data for “constables in resident soldier towns”, although the reason is unclear.

Supervisors reviewed the same nine-month period as for the four soldiers, between January and September 2018.

The audit showed that one computer system put the total number of tickets collectively issued by these soldiers at almost 61,000, while the other had a total of around 56,250 – a discrepancy of more than 4,600 tickets. The differences concerned the troops of the whole department.

For 189 soldiers, there was no difference between the number of tickets issued in the two systems.

For example, the records of a soldier assigned to the Traffic Services Division showed 1,776 tickets issued in both systems.

The numbers of other soldiers were only a handful, records show.

But for dozens of others, the gaps were significant. In some cases, there were differences of more than 100 tickets.

For example, the audit showed that one soldier had 175 violations listed in the computer-aided dispatch system, or CAD, which documents soldier activity and which supervisors use to assess soldier performance. However, the department’s electronic ticketing system, which is used to generate tickets and which department officials say cannot be manipulated, showed no citations for the same soldier.

Another soldier had 156 CAD violations but only 34 electronic tickets.

Overall, the audit showed that 427 officers reported a higher number of CAD violations than electronic tickets – a more concerning trend as this was the trend seen in the four soldiers currently under a criminal investigation; however, some of these discrepancies were minimal or could have legitimate explanations.

For another 93 soldiers, records showed the opposite – more electronic tickets than infractions.

State police supervisors have “collectively decided” to closely examine only soldiers with deviations greater than 50, wrote Maj. Scott Smith, commander of standards and compliance at the time of the audit.

The department selected 17 of 35 soldiers with discrepancies of 50 tickets or more. It is unclear why only some were examined more closely.

Of those 17, the audit identified four officers – including one of four who was later prosecuted on internal charges of creating counterfeit tickets – as possibly involved in ‘misuse’ of the ticketing system . Four other soldiers were identified as having possible discrepancies with racial profiling data.

No further explanation is offered regarding these eight soldiers or what was done to them, although the audit suggested that more records, including handwritten notes that are not tracked by computer systems, should be manually reviewed for further verification. Verification does not provide any analysis or accounting of these paper tickets.

For the other nine soldiers, the audit attributed the discrepancies to “possible/probable training issues” or noted that the differences were likely due to some soldiers only issuing handwritten tickets rather than electronic tickets. The audit described soldiers entering codes incorrectly and various computer glitches, such as the creation of a second line of data that “allowed soldiers to add additional information” – essentially filling out the form twice.

The audit indicated that updates have been made to computer systems to resolve some of the issues.

The audit raises further concerns about the accuracy of state police record keeping. For example, for the four soldiers currently under criminal investigation, the audit listed ticket figures that differed from the figures detailed in internal investigation reports for those soldiers – in some cases by wide margins.

For example, the audit found that Trooper Timothy Bentley issued 71 tickets according to one computer system while another showed 7 tickets. But internal investigators said they discovered that over the same 9-month period, Bentley had reported in a computer system that it had issued 350 tickets when in fact it had only issued 12.

Another of the four soldiers under criminal investigation, Kevin Moore is listed in the audit as having a ticket count in one computer system of 5 and in the other system 3. Internal investigators later found that Moore had entered false ticket data to make it appear that he had issued 55 tickets over the same period when he had only issued 6.

New questions raised

Mike Lawlor, a professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven and former undersecretary of state for criminal justice policy and planning, said the audit indicates there are bigger issues. , but doesn’t provide enough information or context to say for sure if it involved any additional issues. fake tickets.

“There’s an indication there’s a problem here,” Lawlor said. “What was the solution and has it already been implemented? This raises a whole host of questions. »

Lawlor added “At the bare minimum, [state police] have to convince people that they fixed it. This is the responsible posture to adopt here. Let’s find the solution.

Lawlor also questioned why state police focused on the four soldiers who created counterfeit notes, noting that the audit found similar discrepancies among other soldiers and attributed the cause to training. and computer problems.

“What you see is like ‘what’s going on,'” Lawlor said. “Why did they choose these four soldiers? What sets them apart. If it’s a training issue, including Any indication why that didn’t apply to those four soldiers?”

Lawlor also questioned why officials only considered a relatively short time frame. “Why only nine months? How widespread was this? »

Barone questioned why the audit focused on soldiers with 50 or more ticket count discrepancies, noting that he used a threshold of 10 discrepancies for a review he is currently conducting on the four officers caught in train to create counterfeit banknotes.

Barone’s ongoing review focuses on whether false racial and demographic data was submitted to the profiling project. If false profiling data is found, Barone intends to expand the audit to all police forces in the state to determine the full extent of erroneous racial profiling data and, by extension, in how far the counterfeit money scam has spread.

Under state law, police must submit racial profiling data — basic demographic information about people stopped during traffic stops — and that information is analyzed to see if certain departments are too focused on one group. particular.

Barone added that the 2018 state police audit shows a general “lack of oversight” regarding internal records.

“You would think there would be oversight to make sure the records match throughout the system,” Barone said. “I don’t know to what extent this is due to personnel issues.”

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