There is a relatively rare case developing in Connecticut where Professor Minati Roychoudhuri, 62, has been charged with making a false police report after charging that she was racially profiled by a police officer. A review of the dash cam video contradicted factual assertions made by Roychoudhuri in her sworn statement.
Roychoudhuri was pulled over on May 9th by an officer and cited for failure to drive in the established lane. A month after the citation, she filed a complaint with the Commissioner of Public Safety:
I was traveling to Wethersfield on Route 15/5 to attend a meeting 9th May. I was on the left lane on route 15 and had to take exit 85. After the Brainard Airport exit, and after the merging lane ended, I signaled and went to the right lane to take exit 85. An unmarked police car with flashing light stopped me on the ramp after I had taken the exit. The policeman asked me if I could speak English and if I knew why he had stopped me. I said, “yes” to speaking English and “no” to why he had stopped me. He then asked me for my driver’s license and registration. He returned with an envelope and said that I could simply mail in the infraction.
The officer did not give me any reason as to why had stopped me. His asking if I could speak English shows that he had racially profiled me and was not able to give me a concrete reason for stopping me. Further, the officer had checked “Hispanic” in the race category in the infraction ticket. I am a Professor in English at Capital Community College, I teach about diversity and the negative impact of racial profiling, I have now become a target of the same insidious behavior! It is easy to connect the dots with the nationwide racial profiling which has led to serious consequences. I request that my infraction charges be dropped and action be taken against the officer. I have talked with the Senator and Legislator of my constituency regarding this matter and I am sending a copy of this letter to them as well.
Thank you in advance, Sincerely, Minati Roychoudhuri
The police conducted an investigation and reviewed the tape. This is the transcript and the investigators concluded that the officer never asked if Roychoudhuri could speak English and did in fact explain the basis for the citation:
Officer: Hi ma’am, do you know why I’m stopping you today?
O: OK. There’s that big gore area with white lines painted across it and you cut in front of it, in front of me, thinking it’s a lane or something. You have to wait until it’s a dotted white line. License and registration.
(She handed him insurance, so he requested the registration again, which she gave him)
O: Thank you. This is for your Subaru car.
R: This is my Subaru car.
O: Is this a station wagon, color green? The plate doesn’t match what’s on there.
R: [Inaudible]…I thought that was my [inaudible]
O: I’ll run the plate and see what it comes back with.
R: This is the [inaudible] that I have.
(Officer returns to his car for three minutes to write out the ticket for failure to drive in the established lane)
O: Ma’am. So I wrote you the infraction for that improper lane change that you did.
R: Please, you know, I probably crossed over there, and that’s why I did it.
R: Obviously I did that.
R: My [inaudible] is absolutely clean.
O: Ok. So I wrote you an infraction for that improper lane change that you did.
O: The answer date is on the front of it and the instructions are on the back of it.
R: Wait, what?
O: It’s a mail in infraction. All you have to do is mail in, either a check or money order, and mail it in.
R: Thank you.
The Internal Affairs investigators interviewed Roychoudhuri in person and she repeated the same claims of racial profiling as well as specific allegation that there was no explanation of the violation. She then signed a statement that it is a crime for her to make any claims that she does not believe to be true in an effort to mislead a public servant.
Roychoudhuri has now been arrested for giving a false statement in the second degree. The state code mandates:
Sec. 53a-157b. (Formerly Sec. 53a-157). False statement in the second degree: Class A misdemeanor.
(a) A person is guilty of false statement in the second degree when he intentionally makes a false written statement under oath or pursuant to a form bearing notice, authorized by law, to the effect that false statements made therein are punishable, which he does not believe to be true and which statement is intended to mislead a public servant in the performance of his official function.
(b) False statement in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor.
The videotape does appear to show that Roychoudhuri misrepresented the officer’s statements. However, there is always a concern about the police criminally charging citizens who come forward with abuse allegations. Notably, while Roychoudhuri does stand contradicted on the facts regarding the questioning of whether she spoke interest and lack of explanation of the ticket, her allegation of profiling generally could still be true. The mere publication of the transcript is highly discrediting in itself. The question is whether a criminal charge, even a misdemeanor, is warranted in such a case.
In the meantime, various people have gone on the Facebook account of the Capital Community College to call for the school to “fire the liar.” Once again, my concern is that a professor made an allegation of profiling that could still be an honestly held belief (based on the minor infraction used to pull over her car). I am not saying that this was a valid belief in these circumstances but some complaints made be based on subjective viewpoints. There is always a fear of a chilling effect on people coming forward to express such concerns if they can be charged with a crime if police clear the officers. On the other hand, her statement did indeed appear to contain very specific and false elements despite her swearing to their accuracy.
Do you believe a criminal charge and/or university punishment is warranted in such a case?