Chelsea City Council Prepares to Interview Consulting Firms for Police Audit

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By Doug Marrin

The Chelsea City Council moved forward in selecting a consulting firm to conduct an audit of the Police Department. At its May 3, 2021, meeting, the Council worded the interview questions presented to the firms.

The audit is one more step in response to public outcry over the police department’s controversial handling of downtown protestors last summer.

The audit is a result of a recommendation from Bruce Judge in his independent investigation into law enforcement’s response last summer. Mr. Judge’s conducted his study this past winter and suggested further inquiry into the police department’s operations by an outside consulting firm.

In early April, the City posted a Request for Proposal (RFP) to solicit consultants that would perform a thorough review and evaluation of present policies and practices of the Chelsea Police Department.

The City lists specific areas of interest as:

  • Photographic evidence retention and use policies.
  • Hiring policies.
  • Social media policies.
  • Use of police discretion.
  • Reporting practices and policies.
  • Best practices in policing.
  • Best practices in training.
  • Complaint handling and oversight.
  • Best practices in oversight.

Three firms submitted proposals:

  1. Bobcat Training and Consulting, Inc. out of Tallahassee, FL, for $35,000.00.
  2. Hillard Heintze, LLC out of Chicago, IL, for $36,820.08.
  3. McGrath Consulting Group, Inc. out of Wonder Lake, IL, for $29,887.00.

In preparing the interview questions, Mayor Johnson pointed out that the wording of the questions should not lead the auditors to a particular group of people or suggest a specific opinion. As an example, the Mayor stated that using a phrase such as, How do you plan to reach out to concerned citizens? is “directing them to one group over another.”

Mayor Johnson added, “I don't think that's appropriate. We're actually suggesting who they talk to you and excluding others.”

Councilmember Kwas agreed. “The proposal did lay out how they would involve the community,” said Kwas. “But to that point, I really like your proposed language Mayor Johnson, which was how you would engage the entire community.”

In its discussion, the Council framed six standardized questions, which will be provided to the firms ahead of time. These questions are:

  1. What controls does your firm have in place to ensure that the review is based on the objective standards of experts in the field?
  2. What types of information do you consider when reviewing the practical application of city and police policies?
  3. What is your approach to obtaining and reviewing input from residents or stakeholders of the City?
  4. What, in your experience, has been the most effective way to engage the sentiments of the entire City?
  5. What types of things do you consider when reviewing police discretion?
  6. How do you tailor your approach to a community of our size?

The Council will conduct the interviews at 6:00 pm on Monday, May 17, prior to the next regularly scheduled council meeting. The Council will then take action to select which firm will conduct the audit.

The interviews will take approximately 20 minutes. The format will include a two-minute introduction, a ten-minute presentation answering standard questions by the Council, and five minutes of follow-up discussion.

“I think it’s a big step we’re taking as a City Council to do an audit and get more knowledgeable about the subject,” said Councilmember Feeney. “It’s important to us and everybody else.”

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