Police chief says council needs to confirm objectives of review
TAKOMA PARK— The city manager and the mayor said they do not want to pay more money for an external review of the police department even though the city received two responses to their requests for proposal.
City Manager Suzanne Ludlow received zero responses to the first request in January, offering $10,000 for the job. Both responses pertained to the second request. Mayor Kate Stewart (Ward 3) said the city increased the payment the city would offer to see if more money would turn up requests.
Stewart said, “We wanted to see if we could do better so we increased the amount of money to $40,000, re-issued the RFP (request for proposal), and received some responses, but nothing that seemed to be an exact fit for what we were looking for.”
Ludlow said the Takoma Park Police Department needs a consulting agency that is both experienced in examining police and is willing to review a department for a city of Takoma Park’s size. She said the size of the department may have been a factor in why the city received so few responses.
The City Council considered adding an additional $40,000 to the request for proposal, but decided to “roll over” the $40,000 from the current fiscal year. Ludlow said she did not want the council members to add money until they had clarified what they wanted the review to include and that they determined adding money was necessary for the work they said needed to be done.
Ludlow said she and Police Chief Alan Goldberg want to make sure they find the right consultants for the job so they will review the department and list areas where the department can improve.
“These are people who use guns; these are people who enforce laws, so it’s important that we get it right,” said Ludlow in an interview Monday, June 13.
Ludlow later mentioned two cases of violent crimes that occurred in 2011 in which multiple officers reported to the scene of a reported crime, one outside a bank involving a hostage and the other at a gas station and involved a suspect beating a man who was purchasing gas. In both cases more than one officer shot the suspect. She said in those cases the officers’ decision to shoot seemed like the right thing to do but the course of action is less clear in other cases.
The Council plans to select some council members for a subcommittee that will review the RFPs and determine options for the next steps the Council could take, Stewart said. She wanted an external review of the police department so the consultants would provide suggestions on how the department could improve itself related to police-community relations. The police department currently employs several best practices listed by President Barack Obama’s Taskforce on 21st Century Policing, but in the spirit of adding best practices she wanted a consultant group to supply a few more for Takoma Park Police to implement.
“(With the President’s) 21st Century Policing Task force, I just thought this was a good idea to have someone from outside the Takoma Park community to provide recommendations or suggestions on ensuring good community relations between the police department and our residents,” said Stewart.
The police chief said he thought the city should develop a clear idea of what it wants the review to focus on.
“I think there needs to be a bit more focus on what the city council and residents are expecting from the review,” said Goldberg..
Ludlow said the need for a focus may have been Goldberg’s way of saying the city needed to shorten its list of tasks.
Goldberg said the police department has received favorable ratings from residents in a community review of city services two years ago, but that the external review under discussion will be just the department. He said he did not think the department had areas that were in urgent need of external oversight, but that he wanted to know in which areas the department could improve
Although this is the first year the Council has sought an external review of the department, it is not the first time Stewart worked to improve police-community relations. Previously, she wanted to ensure every officer wore a nametag when on duty and she requested that police department logos on vehicles be changed to improve visibility. Now is an appropriate time to examine the topic of police-community relations given high-profile cases, Stewart said.
“We have a national context regarding incidents… like Ferguson and what happened in Baltimore and other places across the country (where) there have been… police and community relations (improvement efforts) and we should have those discussions in Takoma Park,” said Stewart.