NEW BEDFORD — The New Bedford Police Department has hired a consulting firm to ensure the department follows best practices and sound policies and procedures.
The assessment has been ongoing since December 2021 and will continue through June 2022 to determine ways to improve departmental procedures, organizational vision as well as strategies to move the department forward through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city hired Baltimore-based Jensen Hughes to perform the six-month NBPD assessment for $118,596.
Jensen Hughes conducted a top-down review of the Louisville Metro Police Department following the police shooting of Breonna Taylor. The company also assessed the city of Minneapolis’ response to civil unrest following the killing of George Floyd.
What is the purpose of the NBPD assessment?
“Our goal is to help ensure that the NBPD employs best practices and sound policies and procedures in all phases of its work,” Jensen Hughes said in his proposal letter. The company has offices across the country, in Canada and around the world, including England, Saudi Arabia, China and South Korea.
City spokesman Mike Lawrence said Mayor Jon Mitchell has asked each department head to find the resources to conduct assessments of their respective offices to address impacts related to staffing and at work due to the pandemic.
Lawrence said that in a city with a $400 million budget, officials were “always looking for ways to improve.” He said the police department’s assessment enterprise is a good approach to this methodology.
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What prompted the New Bedford police assessment?
Following several Black Lives Matter protests in the city during the summer of 2020 and six months after the “We Are the Prey:Racial Profiling and Youth Policing in New Bedford” by the Citizens for Juvenile Justice report, the NBPD released a new gang policy. The new policy includes an updated 20-point verification system to assess the criteria by which gang affiliation is determined. It is stricter than the industry standard, making it more difficult for an individual to be classified as a gang member.
Councilman Brian Gomes has spoken out publicly against the “We Are The Prey” report and wants council to officially denounce the report. He had wanted it since April 2021. The report claimed that the NBPD was surveilling black people in low-income neighborhoods in the city.
“I don’t think the police department is out there looking for heads,” Gomes said at the last board meeting. “I don’t know of any officer on the street stupid enough to do anything unbecoming to a police officer, because the repercussions of that, I think, would be severe.”
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Who reviews New Bedford Police policies and procedures?
Jensen Hughes’ senior project manager for the Police Service Assessment is Robert Wasserman, who is also the company’s senior vice president. According to his profile on the Jensen Hughes website, he has a long career in law enforcement.
Wasserman has served as a senior executive at several major US police agencies, including Boston and Houston. He was the director of public safety for the Massachusetts Port Authority. He served as Chief of Staff for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and was posted to Bosnia after the war, both as Deputy Commissioner/Operations and Commissioner of the International Drug Control Task Force. United Nations Police, where he oversaw the restructuring of that country’s police. .
According to the proposal that Jensen Hughes submitted to the NBPD to be considered for evaluation, Wasserman would travel to New Bedford several times throughout the evaluation to brief Chief Paul Oliveira and command staff, and meet with selected community leaders. He would oversee the development of the new policing strategy and participate in the development of the process to ensure transparency of policing results.
Wasserman will be assisted by four other consultants from the firm.
When asked if the consultants would make recommendations to the NBPD as they go along, Lt. Scott Carola replied, “The recommendations will take the form of a full report at the end of the assessment.
Standard-Times digital producer Linda Roy can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @LindaRoy_TBS. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to the Standard-Times.