Independent evaluation of Brookhaven Police Department has begun

Published 9:14 am Monday, August 28, 2023

An independent expert has spent a few days in Brookhaven this week conducting an evaluation of the city’s police department and its operations.

The Board of Aldermen contracted with William “Bill” Harmening and his consulting agency on Aug. 1 to conduct the evaluation in response to grand jury report that was critical of Brookhaven Police Department, its practices and leadership.

Harmening, from Nashville, has consulted in nearly 300 cases in 40 states and served as an expert witness in some high-profile cases. Mayor Joe Cox described him as “a nationwide recognized expert in the areas of police practices and use of force” when the board was considering the contract.

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“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,” Cox said.

The mayor said the expert would 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 inquiries, two other independent experts will review his findings, and a report will be submitted to the City.

Chief Kenneth Collins was not present at the Aug. 1 board meeting, and was notified of the consultant’s hiring the next morning.

The mayor 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. He submitted a request to the board at its next meeting on Aug. 15 to hire such an attorney.

The City Board’s attorney, Bobby Moak, issued a formal reply stating “there are no legal matters pending … The Grand Jury report is not a legal complaint … Further independent legal counsel to the Police Department … is not warranted at this time …”

Once Harmening’s review has been fully completed and submitted the mayor and Board, the City will determine if any further actions will be taken.