The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office will pay $100,000 for a police think tank to review its internal affairs department and its investigations into shootings.
As part of the deal, six experts with the Police Executive Research Forum will spend months interviewing PBSO staff, comparing the department’s policies to “best practices” and hosting six focus groups to get the public’s input.
At the end of their study, estimated to take about 4 1/2 months, the group will release its findings and recommendations for improvement, according to the contract, signed in May. The PERF team is expected to start late this month, according to a PBSO spokeswoman.
Sheriff Ric Bradshaw asked PERF for help after a joint investigation by The Palm Beach Post and WPTV NewsChannel 5 revealed in April that the agency’s investigations into shootings were often inadequate.
The investigation found that PBSO’s internal investigators skew or ignore evidence that could be critical of the shooting deputy and often don’t question a deputy’s statement, even when facts show the deputy didn’t tell the truth. Their reports were also found to leave out basic information, such as how many shots the deputy fired and whether the suspect lived.
Over the agency’s 123 shootings by deputies since 2000, it found only 12 went against department policy.
Bradshaw didn’t dispute the investigation’s findings but said that even if internal investigators’ reports were more thorough, the shootings still would have been found justified.
PERF is a respected think-tank in the world of policing, and the U.S. Department of Justice often contracts with them to help reform police departments.
The group will be looking into many aspects of the county’s largest police department, according to the contract, including:
- How the agency handles complaints by civilians.
- How it reviews uses of force by deputies.
- The department’s policies.
- How its internal investigators are trained.
PERF will hold six community focus groups “to determine community expectations about PBSO internal administrative investigations,” the contract states.
The dates for those groups have not been announced. The Post will publish them as soon as they’re released.