Boynton Beach Police Department: Long-awaited Boynton police study coming soon

Department working to drop 'bad apples'

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — Ideally, Boynton Beach wants an efficient police department free of "bad apples," as the chief called four officers arrested last year.

To get it, commissioners are poised to pay a consultant $54,000 or more to make recommendations. Wednesday night, two companies are set to pitch top-down reviews of a department scarred by scandal and once on the brink of closure because it cost too much to run.

If the four commissioners can reach a consensus, they could pick one and kick off a 150-day review expected to generate new ideas for a broken force.

But some question whether it will work.

"It's a relatively common way to deal with what are perceived as problems," said Dennis Jay Kenney, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. But, "for the most part, these types of reviews are not terribly good."

He said management studies tend to be "like a thermometer stuck in the agency to see how they're doing compared to other similar agencies." And some consultants seem to recycle their recommendations.

"There are some that are good," Kenney said. "I'd be very careful on who I picked."

Yet there have been big expectations for the police study since the former mayor demanded it a year ago.

At the time, elected officials pressed police leadership for answers after a string of arrests of officers. Three were charged with lying in police reports. Another fled to Brazil to avoid drug trafficking charges.

Recently, the Police Department began investigating Lt. David Wier, apparently in connection to accusations from a colleague about work attendance. And state prosecutors looking into Sgt. Frank Ranzie's city-issued laptop found it contained hundreds of pornographic images. The department has declined to comment on each case because the investigations continue.

The department has money problems, too. As 2013 budget talks began, interim City Manager Lori LaVerriere asked Police Chief Matt Immler to propose a $22.7 million budget and one that cuts 10 percent. Instead, in April, he asked for nearly $25 million, citing health costs and an expiring federal grant.

So the city requested an offer from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office to take over the city's law enforcement for a savings. Commissioners rejected the proposal under public pressure to keep the city force.

Ultimately, said Jerry Needle, who reviews police management for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, citizens generally are "rooting for the police."

"Public trust is a very delicate commodity. It needs nurturing," he said. "But there is a deep-rooted respect for law enforcement and for police, and the public is anxious for police to serve them and meet their needs."

The city's request for bids asks the consultant to find ways to restructure for better crime-fighting and cost savings. It also seeks to find whether instances of employee misconduct were caused by "systemic ineffective management-style and leadership capabilities" or were "isolated individual acts," as the chief has suggested.

Or maybe, it posits, there's a generally deficient respect for department policies.

Neither consultant offered comments. Matrix Consulting Group, based in California, could not be reached despite calls. A principal at Ohio-based Berkshire Advisors Inc., said the company does not comment without client approval.

But Berkshire, the favored option among city staff, wrote in its application that "a broad range of issues combine to affect performance." Its recommendations would take all the Department's practices into account, the company said.

The Matrix study would cost $54,000, and Berkshire's would cost $59,000, paid out of the city's general fund.

Commissioner Stephen Holzman, the most outspoken critic of the department, wants the review, as do the other elected officials. But he wants to ensure the money is well spent.

"Boynton Beach is infamous," he said, "for doing studies and reviews and putting them in a book and putting them on a shelf."


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