The city of Bainbridge Island will take a more intensive look inside its troubled police department.
City Manager Douglas Shultze has hired an expert consultant to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the police department to find areas of improvement and then come up with a development plan for needed changes.
"I am very pleased that the city manager recognized the urgency of the issue," said Bainbridge Councilwoman Kirsten Hytopoulus.
"With any luck, the study will be completed in time to inform the new police chief," she said.
Pendleton Consulting, a Kingston-based firm headed by Michael R. Pendleton, will conduct the assessment. Pendleton, a former police officer and University of Washington professor, has worked as a consultant on police issues for the cities of Kenmore, Sumner, Lacy, Olympia and Kent. According to the biography that is included in his assessment proposal, he is also on retainer to the city of Seattle as a consultant on police accountability.
The suggestion for an intensive review of the police department has been an enduring idea within Bainbridge city hall over the past year, spurred in part by the fatal police shooting of a mentally ill Bainbridge man in October 2010 that prompted a federal civil rights court case and a $1 million judgement against the city in June.
The Bainbridge Island Police Department has been caught in a swirl of controversy ever since.
Jon Fehlman, then the city’s police chief, went on medical leave during the trial and was hit by a vote of “no confidence” by the city’s police union while he was on leave. Union officials blamed Fehlman for poor morale in the department and accused him of numerous violations of state law and department policies.
An outside investigation was launched and found the union’s claims of wrongdoing largely unfounded. The Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office also investigated, and found Fehlman committed no crimes. Fehlman, however, resigned in September.
City officials had also sought an outside investigator to review union complaints against Fehlman’s second-in-command, Sue Shultz, after members of the Bainbridge police guild accused Shultz of gender discrimination against two female officers in the department.
Though the investigation did not find clear evidence of gender discrimination by Shultz, she tendered her resignation after the investigation report was released.
Apart from the recent high-profile departures in the police department, some members of the city council began to call again for a comprehensive review of the police department.
In November, the council agreed to ask the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to perform a study that would look at the strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement within the department.
The assessment suggested by Pendleton Consulting is estimated to cost between $9,770 and $10,495 for the first phase. It would include interviews of 45 people;
25 police department employees and another 25 participants picked by the city manager.
The consultant proposal was expected to go before the council last week for consideration.
After the council meeting was canceled due to a lack of a quorum, Schulze decided that the matter was “time sensitive,” however, and needed to be finished before a new police chief is hired.