City hires expert to evaluate BPD

Published 1:45 pm Thursday, August 3, 2023

The City of Brookhaven has hired an independent expert to evaluate the police department and its operations.

The Board of Aldermen met with William “Bill” Harmening Tuesday in executive session, and contracted with him to conduct the evaluation in response to a recent grand jury report that was critical of the police department, its leadership and practices.

“The City Board has contracted with a nationwide recognized expert in the areas of police practices and use of force to conduct an evaluation of the department and its operations,” Mayor Joe Cox said in a statement released Wednesday. “Bill Harmening, from Nashville, Tennessee, has consulted in nearly 300 cases in 40 states, and testified as an expert in both the Michael Brown and George Floyd cases. He routinely conducts evaluations of police departments to identify problems and deficiencies in … policies, practices and protocols, with the goal of shaping a more professional and effective department for the community it serves.”

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Cox said the expert will review all aspects of the department’s operation, including issues related to supervision, investigations, officer recruitment and retention, and community engagement. At the conclusion of his review, two other independent experts will review his findings, and a report will be submitted to the City.

“The Board and I are aware of other aspects of the city government that need modernization,” Cox said. “It is our goal for citizens to be secure in the knowledge that we will do whatever it takes to make sure all actions of city government are effective. We are fully aware of the trust and responsibility the citizens of our city have given us. We will continue to respond to those critical needs that we know need to be addressed.”

The mayor said he spoke with BPD Chief Kenneth Collins on Wednesday morning and informed him of the Board’s decision to contract the expert. He said Collins told him he was “on board” with the investigation, and hoped that it would reach into every area needed.

Later Wednesday, Collins said he believes the mayor and Board would need to be investigated as well, and the police department would retain its own attorney for the investigation.