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Monday, October 14, 2013

New Process, Familiar Result in Search for Police Bureau Psychologist

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Mon, Oct 14, 2013 at 3:44 PM

The selection process for the post of police psychologist looked very different this time around, thanks to persistent efforts from the Albina Ministerial Alliance for Coalition for Justice and Police Reform—and their concerns about how the bureau was vetting cops and recruits for issues like racial bias or a tendency toward violence.

But the result of that process, when it's made formal by the Portland City Council this Wednesday, might look like nothing changed at all.

Dr. David Corey—the same white Lake Oswego psychologist who's had the job for the past 13 years, to the great discomfort of the AMA—will still remain the bureau's go-to professional for working with new recruits. He'll be paid $225,000 for the privilege of continuing that work another three years.

But that's not to say that nothing changed. Corey was chosen despite a far more open selection and recruitment process that actually put the AMA at the table. And this year, Mayor Charlie Hales' office decided to split the job of psychologist into two components—giving another psychologist a $45,000 contract to work with current officers facing evaluation after being put on stress-related leave.

Dr. Sherry Harden, a white woman who's worked extensively and deeply with law enforcement agencies in Washington County, has been given that position.

It's not quite what advocates had been hoping for when they first tilted with the city over this process, back in early 2012 under then-Mayor Sam Adams. But Dr. T. Allen Bethel, president of the AMA, also made sure to point out that Hales' office made good on its promise this spring to keep his group in the loop and avoid the tensions that cropped up after the police bureau, under Adams, struggled with similar promises.

"I believe they made a good faith attempt at how they handled the process," he says.

After working with the city to send requests for résumés far and wide, Bethel says, his group was part of a selection committee that also included police brass. The AMA even persuaded the city to ask potential applicants to talk about their "cultural competency." The effort was one of the major accomplishments of retiring Hales policy director Baruti Artharee

But?

"We looked at what came back," Bethel says. "We thought we'd have seen some different results, but it resulted in the same thing."

The reality is only a few working psychologists have experience with police vetting. The last time Corey's name was put before the city council, he was the only person who applied.

Bethel says he hopes the city won't revert back to automatic renewals when Harden's and Corey's contracts come up and that, next time, the city do more in its request for applicants to welcome people who might have the necessary skills and talents to do police work, if not the same experience.

"We're also hoping and looking forward to Dr. Corey," Bethel says, "that what he will continue to grow himself and include diversity in his office and to help mentor someone with diversity, so that they will be able to collaborate with him in the future."

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