Wethersfield’s chief of police attempted to go on the defensive when it came to a report detailing racial profiling within his department.
However, he found himself answering detailed, pointed questions about the practices of the department he’s run for years.
“I don’t believe my officers are racists,” James Cetran told the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project Advisory Board at the Legislative Office Building. “They’re not stopping cars solely because of race or any other bias for that matter. They’re stopping cars for violations,” Cetran said.
According to traffic stop provided to researchers at Central Connecticut State University, more than 47 percent of all traffic stops in 2015 were of minority drivers, while more than 52 percent were white drivers. Data shows that 87 percent of residents in Wethersfield are white.
There were 4,490 traffic stops in 2015 in Wethersfield.
Those statistics, coupled with details on the kinds of stops, ranging from moving violations to out headlights and overly tinted windows, painted an image of Wethersfield’s Police Department that was not flattering.
“It really is about race and we need to talk about this and call it as it is because you know, this is something that’s affecting everything in America,” Dr. Cato Laurencin, a former Dean of the UConn School of Medicine who sits on the panel.
Cetran provided multiple reasons for the conclusions of the data. First, he found the data to be flawed, arguing that the estimated driving population did not adequately account for out-of-town drivers. Second, he said the research doesn’t factor in the border with Hartford which leads to drivers from the capital city entering Wethersfield for the purposes of grocery and other shopping.
“The fact is, a lot of the people who are driving in Wethersfield are from outside of Wethersfield and I was just trying to show that population around 160 Silas Deane Highway has a much higher Hispanic residency than if you just used Wethersfield alone.”
Project Manager Ken Barone acknowledged the fact that Hartford’s more diverse population does lead to similar spikes in other nearby towns, but did say Wethersfield’s are higher than others.
“We have tried to understand the impact Hartford is having on Wethersfield as Hartford has an impact on many of the surrounding communities. We saw the impact Hartford has had in West Hartford and in Bloomfield and in Windsor so Hartford is definitely having an impact on the driving population of its surrounding communities.”
State Representative Robyn Porter questioned Cetran, asking, “What makes Wethersfield more unique than the other places that have these borders where your numbers are just extremely more high than the rest of these towns.”
Cetran said, “All I’m saying is give us valid numbers so we can work with it. The way the numbers are stacked up using strictly population, it’s just not right.”