Stymied by lack of candidates, city hires back police psychologist

David M. Corey

David M. Corey

After efforts to broaden the pool of applicants for the Portland police psychologist job, the city is poised to sign a three-year contract with the same psychologist who has served the Police Bureau for 13 years and a second psychologist who will do a much smaller number of evaluations.

An ordinance set to go before Portland’s City Council on Wednesday would authorize a three-year, $225,000 contract with David M. Corey to do psychological evaluations of police applicants and evaluations of police candidates once they’re offered a job.

A three-year, $45,000 contract would go to Sherry L. Harden to evaluate the fitness of current officers when there is a concern by the Police Bureau about their ability to perform their jobs and to help evaluate officers up for promotion.

In mid-May, the city issued a request for resumes for police psychologists. The request required candidates to be a psychologist licensed in Oregon with an expertise in clinical testing and personnel evaluation, in particular for public safety jobs.

By June 3, the city received five resumes.

Until now, the City Council has granted or extended Corey’s contract nine times and paid him close to half a million dollars without seeking competitive bids for a decade. When the city did open the contract to bids last year, it was riddled with controversy. The city received only two bids, including one from Corey.

At the time, a community member questioned whether it was a conflict of interest for the same psychologist to perform initial screenings of applicants and fitness-for-duty exams of current officers.

Members of the minority community, as represented by the Albina Ministerial Alliance’s Coalition for Police and Justice Reform, also objected to what they described as Corey’s “monopoly” on the Police Bureau.

While Corey is highly regarded nationally and there’s been no specific problems cited with his work, the coalition members argued he has failed to weed out some officers with a propensity for violence, pointing to last year’s finding by the U.S. Department of Justice that Portland police have engaged in a pattern of excessive force against people with mental illness.

Last year, former Mayor Sam Adams backed away from awarding a five-year contract to Corey, acknowledging the city could have done more to draw a broader pool of bidders. He promised to consult with federal officials on best practices.

Representatives from the Police Bureau, the city’s minority evaluator program and the Albina Ministerial Alliance were involved in this year’s review of the five applicants, according to city records.

Corey is based in Lake Oswego. Harden is based in Beaverton. She also serves as the psychologist for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office Hostage Negotiations Team. She has provided services or consultation for the Salem Police Department, Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI, according to her website.

As part of Corey’s new contract, he’ll be required to report twice a year on the pass and fail rates of police applicants he evaluates, based on gender and ethnicity. Every six months, he is to provide a written report to the city on the “progress of the multicultural competency model” and in the training of police psychologists “from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.”

The City Council meets at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in City Hall.