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Baltimore considers hiring new firm to conduct psychological exams of police

Baltimore, MD -- 03/19/2013 -- A detail of a Baltimore Police patch during a hearing at City Hall hours following a triple homicide Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff) [] (_1D34181.JPG)] Police thumbnail image crime criminal justice
Baltimore, MD -- 03/19/2013 -- A detail of a Baltimore Police patch during a hearing at City Hall hours following a triple homicide Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff) [] (_1D34181.JPG)] Police thumbnail image crime criminal justice(Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore police are considering hiring a new firm to conduct psychological evaluations of officers after the city ended a contract with a firm officials accused of providing shoddy exams last year.

According to Board of Estimates records, Business Health Services of Baltimore has submitted a bid of $80,000 to provide counseling services, while LifeWork Strategies of Gaithersburg submitted a bid of $34,000.

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In addition to counseling services, the city is looking for a different firm that will 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."

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

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Last year, the Board of Estimates — then controlled by former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake — voted to immediately 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."

The Board of Estimates, now controlled by Mayor Catherine Pugh, is expected to make decisions about both the psychological evaluations and the counseling services in the coming weeks.

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