Baltimore to continue search for new firm to provide psych exams for police

Baltimore officials said Monday they are continuing their search for a contractor to provide psychological evaluations of police after encountering issues with several firms.

The city plans to hire a firm to provide confidential counseling and support services to police for such issues as workplace stress, anger management, depression and post-traumatic stress.

Officials said they will continue seeking a firm to provide psychological evaluations for recruits and fitness-for-duty exams.

"We are not ready to make an award" for such work, said Caroline Sturgis, the Police Department's chief financial officer, in an email.

Sturgis declined to describe the department's reasoning for waiting to award a new contract for psychological examinations, but said the "justification will be provided" to the city's Board of Estimates in the coming weeks.

The city recently received bids in response to its request for contractors to conduct psychological evaluations of — and provide counseling services for — Baltimore police officers. The city ended a contract last year with a firm officials accused of providing shoddy exams.

According to Board of Estimates records, Business Health Services of Baltimore submitted a bid of $80,000, while LifeWork Strategies of Gaithersburg submitted a bid of $34,000. One of those firms will be selected to provide the counseling, police officials said.

But the department will continue to search for a firm to conduct psychological evaluations of Baltimore police recruits and as-needed "fitness for duty" evaluations of current Baltimore police. Such exams check for "mental or physical instability or incapacity."

Currently, the city uses Lanham-based Interdynamics, Inc. to conduct such work.

The department has had issues with its psychological exams in the past.

Last year, the Board of Estimates — then controlled by former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake — voted to end a contract with a firm that conducted mental health screenings for many prospective Baltimore police officers, after determining the screenings were far shorter than required.

The city's inspector general reported that its investigation found nearly three-quarters of officers and trainees said their pre-employment screenings with Psychology Consultants Associated of Lutherville lasted 30 minutes or less. The firm's contract with the city required at least an hour-long screening.

In a letter to the inspector general, Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis accused the firm of "cutting corners" and putting the public and the department "at risk."

Kenneth Sachs, the firm's president, defended the company, telling city investigators in 2015 that police evaluations "typically last about 45 minutes." He said he conducts "an interview as long as it takes me to get a clear idea of what's going on."

After the city parted ways with Psychology Consultants Associated, police briefly used Towson-based Atlantic OccuPsych to conduct psychological evaluations.

Stephen F. Curran, the company's president, said he stopped working with Baltimore police after less than three months.

"Among factors leading to terminating the relationship with the Baltimore Police Department was a promised contract was never instituted," he wrote in an email provided to The Sun on Monday. "The lack of integrity in dealing with certain members of the Baltimore Police Department was disappointing."

Curran said his firm has bid on the new contract to perform psychological evaluations.

The Baltimore Police Department did not respond Monday to Curran's comments.

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

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