The Pine Bluff City Council voted 7-1 Tuesday to approve a resolution that instructs the mayor to research the cost of hiring a consultant to evaluate the police department’s management practices and policies.
The resolution requests that Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr.: “investigate the availability and likely costs associated with retaining professional consultants for the purpose of evaluating the management practices and policies and overall administration of the police department. The mayor should make a report to the council within 30 days of his findings.”
After the 30-day deadline for Redus’ report, the council will then consider whether to actually hire a consultant.
Alderman Wayne Easterly voted against the resolution.
“Money,” Easterly said after the meeting when asked why he voted against the proposal. “Right now, the way it’s set up, something like that falls under the mayor. That’s his job [to evaluate the management of the police department]. But mainly, money.”
Police Chief Brenda Davis-Jones left before the end of Tuesday’s council meeting. She has not returned phone messages seeking comment.
Alderman Thelma Walker, who sponsored the proposal, said in an interview last week that she and other members of the city council are concerned about how some recent disciplinary actions have been handled by the department.
“I am concerned, and other members are as well, about the uniformity of [the discipline that is imposed], the timely manner and other things,” Walker said. “We just feel like the best thing for the department might be for someone from outside the department to come in and assess it.”
Walker said that in speaking to police officers, she has heard from them that they preferred the more uniformity in treatment they felt they received under previous police chiefs.
“They said that when you did something, you knew what punishment you were going to get,” Walker said. “You were going to get the same thing that the person before you got.”
Disciplinary actions so far in 2012 that have been made public include:
• A 30-day suspension given to Officer Andrea Cherry for insubordination, being late for court and other policy violations. Cherry appealed the decision, but it was upheld by the city Review Committee;
• An undisclosed disciplinary action for Detective Marty Harrison, which he is appealing;
• The firing of former Lt. Rowland Dorman for alleged sexual harassment, which he is appealing;
• And the firing of Assistant Police Chief Ivan Whitfield for not having control of his service weapon, according to Whitfield’s description of the situation. Police officials have not commented on what led to the firing. The decision was overturned and Whitfield was reinstated Monday by the Pine Bluff City Council.