The Justice Department could pay two contractors over a million dollars total to produce reports on the St. Louis County Police Department response to violence that erupted in Ferguson, Missouri last August. Yet critics contend the reports will be biased.
The DOJ hired the Police Foundation to produce a report on “collaborative reform” for the St. Louis County PD and the Institute for Intergovernmental Research for an “after-action” report on the department’s policing during the 17 days of violence and looting in the St. Louis suburb after a white Ferguson Police Department officer shot and killed an unarmed black teen on August 9, 2014.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch obtained copies of the contracts with the two outside companies via a public records request. Those contracts show that the Institute for Intergovernmental Research estimated it will cost $225,000 to complete its report, while the Police Foundation report will cost about $780,000. That collaborative reform report was initiated at the request of St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar in September.
The after-action report budget includes $54,450 for contractors and $37,600 to travel to St. Louis. The collaborative reform report anticipates more than 140 days of consultant work, spread among at least a half dozen consultants, at a rate of $550 a day; travel costs; multiple trips to St. Louis by Police Foundation officials; phones; space rental; and other costs, the Post-Dispatch reported.
But former St. Louis County police chief Tim Fitch thinks the Justice Department reports will be biased against the county police department.
“They’re being paid to say whatever the DOJ wants them to say,” he told the Post-Dispatch. “It certainly is stunning that the DOJ would spend that amount of money to conduct a review of a police agency that already has the highest level of accreditation of any agency in the country.”
Fitch said that the federal government should allow police agencies to hire their own experts, so both sides of an issue could be presented to decision makers.
The DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), which hired the two companies, defended its use of contractors to complete the reports.
COPS spokeswoman Mary Brandenberger told the Post-Dispatch that the agency hires outside contractors to produce “nonbiased, fair and objective” reports, for which there is a price.
“I’m not aware of any police analysis charities out there,” she said.
“We peer-review everything,” Brandenberger added. “It is a third-party, independent analysis.” But the cost compared to a previous after-action report gives some credence to Fitch’s criticisms.