The Dunwoody City Council may approve a study of its police department at its next meeting.

On July 25, Assistant Finance Director Richard Platto brought forth a $117,500 contract with a consulting firm called BerryDunn for a professional study of the police department. According to city documents, the study would look at operations and staffing, and would be expected to take about eight months. 

“Leveraging out breadth and depth of experience, we will help the DPD evaluate the extent to which its organizational structure, spans of control, and personnel allocations and their associated duties efficiently and effectively match the City’s current and future operational needs, service demands, and community and stakeholder expectations,” reads a letter at the beginning of BerryDunn’s proposal. 

Mayor Lynn Deutsch said the council discussed a possible department study at its annual retreat earlier this year. The city sent out requests for proposals in April of 2022. 

City spokesperson Jennifer Boettcher said that the department review arose from hiring challenges the city has been facing with the police department. In the beginning of the police department’s 2021 Annual Report, Chief Billy Grogan said that the department had its highest rate of turnover this year, and said the department struggles with recruitment and retention. The City Council approved pay raises and benefits for law enforcement at a July 11 meeting. 

Some residents have previously said they believe the department’s turnover has to do with legal and personnel issues the city has faced over the past two years, mostly related to former Lt. Fidel Espinoza, who multiple officers accused of sexual harassment in 2020. Some residents voiced their concerns at a council meeting in March this year.

Boettcher did not say that the review had anything to do with the allegations against Espinoza. 

“After 13 years, the City felt it was time to assess the progress and plan for the future of the Dunwoody Police Department,” she said in an email. “This is a 360 review of all aspects of the department, including staff size, positions, training, equipment, operations, and programs.”

According to BerryDunn’s proposal, the results of the study will be used to plan for “current and future public safety services.” That proposal states that the DPD is interested in a review of all police department staffing, its patrol work schedule, and the efficiency and effectiveness of how it deploys patrol personnel. BerryDunn’s study is also expected to evaluate technology, the department’s organizational structure, management systems and human resources processes, customer service and satisfaction, use of force and community policing practices, and budget. 

Councilmember Joe Seconder asked if the study team would be reaching out to Dunwoody residents who do not speak English as a first language, including the city’s Latino population. Richard Platto said that staff will make that recommendation. 

Seconder said he likes the scope of the study outline, but he also wants to focus on training and accountability best practices. 

According to staff, any final report that BerryDunn would produce would go back before council. The contract is expected to be back before the council at its next meeting. 

Sammie Purcell

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.