Bainbridge city manager recommends study of the police department

Bainbridge Island City Manager Doug Schulze will offer two options for conducting a long-awaited management review of the city's embattled police department at the city council meeting tonight.

City officials have long talked about a comprehensive review of the police department, but the council decided to delay seeking an outside consultant until Schulze started his job as Bainbridge's new city manager.

At the council meeting Wednesday, Nov. 28, Schulze plans to propose two options for launching a study into the island's police department.

Schulze has advised the council that the city could engage an outside consultant for the review, but he prefers reaching out to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to take on the task.

"My recommendation to the city council is the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs Loaned Executive Management Assistance Program, because it can be done at a fraction of the cost and in a shorter timeframe," Schulze said in a memo to the city council.

"The ultimate goal of the study is to identify strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement within the police department," he added.

The city manager estimates that the consultant could cost up to $50,000, while the costs for the association to do the work could come in between $5,000 to $7,000.

With the Loaned Executive Management Assistance Program, the effort would involve a team spending up to three days at the department and take up to 60 days to finalize a report.

Schulze plans to use the study as a factor in finding the department's next police chief.

"Completion of the LEMAP within the next two months will accelerate the timeline for hiring a new police chief," he said.

Talk of the review comes shortly after the department's commander was placed on administrative leave earlier this month. Problems within the police department date back much further, however, but began to climax after the end of a federal civil rights trial over the fatal police shooting of a mentally ill Bainbridge man that resulted in a $1 million judgement against the city. In the months that followed, the city's police union took a vote of "no confidence" in the leadership of Jon Fehlman, the city's police chief, and Bainbridge launched an investigation into allegations of misdeeds by Fehlman and the union's claims of faulty management and poor morale. Fehlman was largely exonerated but resigned from his post in September.

With Schulze now in place as city manager, attention has turned back to an outside study of the police department.

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