A 30-day review of the Oak Ridge Police Department had barely gotten started before it came under fire. But the Oak Ridge City Council will try to fix that on Tuesday.
The concern centers on a report that the list of ORPD employees randomly selected for the first 20 interviews was sent to Oak Ridge Police Chief Jim Akagi and all Police Department employees, raising questions about the impartiality and anonymity of the review. The reviewer, Rex Barton of the Municipal Technical Advisory Service at the University of Tennessee, apparently sent the list to the police chief for scheduling purposes, seeking to minimize overtime and minimize stress on the officers’ off-duty life.
But those who have pressed for an investigation, including Oak Ridge City Council member Trina Baughn, quickly objected when they learned that the list of interviewees had been sent to the police chief, who has been the subject of much of their scrutiny.
So, in a special meeting Tuesday evening, the City Council will ask Barton, an MTAS police management consultant, to create a new, random list of officers to interview. Council will also consider determining a point of contact in the Oak Ridge Police Department who can help coordinate the schedules of officers participating in the interviews.
“Clearly, in the past, MTAS has worked through the police chief to coordinate schedules, but in our case that is not appropriate,” said City Council member Kelly Callison, who first proposed the MTAS review in February and proposed the revisions to be considered today.
During the special meeting tonight, the Council will also consider establishing a temporary email account that could allow other interested residents to provide input. Some citizens and former officers have said they would like to weigh in. Emails would only be considered from those who provide their name and full address, including city. They would be monitored, reviewed, and assembled by an MTAS affiliate and submitted to Barton for possible inclusion in the MTAS report expected to be issued at the end of the review.
In an email to other Council members and city officials, Callison said the review process had gotten off on the wrong foot “because of poor planning on our part—using the ‘our’ to imply all of us—city, council, etc.,” but “I believe the effort is worth saving and can still move forward.”
The MTAS review will focus on turnover, morale, and administrative policies. The MTAS proposal approved by City Council during a March 27 meeting said the content of interviews would remain confidential, and no employee or city officer would have access to information regarding any individual interview. But it doesn’t appear to have specifically said that the names of those who are interviewed will be kept confidential from the chief.
City officials have said those who are interviewed will likely have to do it on work time, and their supervisors will have to know where they are.
The Tuesday evening special meeting will follow another special meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 21, in the Multipurpose Room of the Central Services Complex at 100 Woodbury Lane. That first special meeting is to consider repairs to the Oak Ridge Fire Department’s tower truck and a new deposit program for the Oak Ridge Electric Department, an agreement reached with the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The two special meetings could occur during a City Council work session scheduled to start at 6 p.m. at the Central Services Complex. That work session will adjourn at 7 p.m. for the special meetings and could then reconvene.
See the work session agenda here.
See the first special meeting agenda here.
See the second special meeting agenda here.