Troopers Ran `100 Club' For DWI Arrests

By TRACY GORDON FOX, Hartford Courant Staff Writer It was an "open competition" for some troopers on the midnight shift at the Bethany barracks three years ago.

The game was to make enough drunken driving arrests to qualify for the "100 Club" - 100 arrests for the year. But following the rules often didn't matter. Nor did whether the driver was really drunk.

Troopers were supposed to videotape arrests. Often they didn't. They mishandled evidence. They even counseled motorists against taking the breathalyzer, warning them they would spend more time in the police lockup if they chose to exercise their rights.

Of the 19 examples of botched investigations by the state police internal affairs division, its handling of a probe into Troop I's so-called 100 Club "had the most direct result on members of the general public," according to a damning 168-page report made public Monday.

The report concluded that the internal affairs investigation should have probed improper arrest procedures in drunken driving cases.

But it was done "in such a haphazard manner that it would be impossible to determine whether or not employee misconduct occurred."

On Tuesday, Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said they would review drunken driving cases in the 14 towns covered by the Bethany barracks.

According to the report by Blumenthal's office and the New York State Police, troopers on the midnight shift at the Bethany barracks made so many arrests on drunken driving charges in 2003 that they were awarded a unit citation for being the DWI enforcement leader for all four state police troops in the central district.

But, at about the same time, suspects charged with drunken driving in the Bethany area began complaining to prosecutors that they were counseled by state troopers not to take the breathalyzer test that would prove whether they were drunk, according to the report.

Although a routine inspection by state police identified improper arrest procedures, including failure to collect evidence, that may have affected the rights of suspects and possibly the outcome of their cases, internal affairs investigators failed to properly look into the misconduct, the report said.

Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane is reviewing the report, including allegations raised about the Bethany barracks, he said.

Kane said Tuesday that he was not aware of concerns raised about drunken driving cases until he read the report.

"I've got the whole document now," Kane said. "We are in the process of reviewing it and will come up with what has to be done."

Blumenthal said Tuesday that his office would also review cases out of the Bethany barracks "to determine what additional investigation is appropriate."

"There were clear indications of very severe misconduct, and none of it was properly investigated," he said. "If there are cases that need to be reviewed, involving DWI cases, we would do so."

Lt. Gov. Kevin Sullivan, who recently proposed tougher penalties for drunken driving, called the case "a tragedy."

"Potentially, every motor vehicle suspension is subject to being reviewed," Sullivan said of the cases investigated by Bethany. "What should happen now is that the state should anticipate lawyers will be coming forward. It's absolutely outrageous."

"If the case is still pending, you are in great shape," said Gerald Klein, a defense attorney who handles many cases involving drunken driving charges. He said state police reports are usually thorough.

"I always thought the cops tell you they want you to take the breathalyzer," Klein said. "That sounds ludicrous that anyone in law enforcement would do that."

There were 500 drunken driving cases made in 2003 by Bethany troopers, a high number for any troop, but only 14 tapes from onboard cameras were recorded as evidence, the report said.

According to the report, paperwork was late and some of the cases failed to document probable cause for arrest, the inspection found.

It also raised questions about the administration of chemical tests to determine a defendant's blood alcohol level, and, in some cases, found chain-of-custody problems with urine samples.

The case is one of the egregious examples of managerial interference with an investigation, the report said.

The department's inspection unit, which has the task of checking that procedures are followed, "appropriately sounded the alarm."

"But that alarm was promptly and improperly silenced" by other supervisors in internal affairs, the report said.

Because of the inspection, an internal affairs investigation was conducted in 2004 but limited to one trooper, according to the New York report.

The trooper, who left the department for the FBI after 2004, returned to the state police and is now working a narcotics detail, sources said Tuesday.

The report said investigating only one trooper was "highly unusual, particularly in light of the findings of the inspection report that raised similar questions about other troopers."

Evidence showed DWI arrest documents and lab results indicated negative results for alcohol and drugs, the report said.

That "was ample justification to give credibility to the inspection report and implicate other troopers who worked the midnight shift," the report concluded.

Internal affairs investigators made no attempt to contact or interview any of the people who refused a breath test, to determine if they were pressured to do so.

Union President Steven Rief said the focus of the report was "how command staff was involved and interfering with investigations."

"This is not representative of the majority of the troopers," Rief said of the report, but he added that changes must be made to ensure other investigations are not botched. "Only when there is fairness and objectivity can we have confidence in the system and integrity can be restored."

Contact Tracy Gordon Fox at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Source: http://judicialmisconduct.blogspot.com/2006/12/100-club-for-making-dui-arrests.html