Newton is hiring Dorchester-based consulting firm Strategy Matters, LLC, to work with its Police Reform Task Force on developing recommendations for police reform in the city. The recommendations will be presented to the mayor in a report due Feb. 1, 2021, according to a request for proposals for the consulting services.
A selection committee chose Boston-based Strategy Matters from seven firms across the country that submitted proposals for the contract, which is estimated to cost $108,000 according to Ellen Ishkanian, a spokesperson for Newton.
“We felt that Strategy Matters really fit the needs of the project,” said Jonathan Yeo, chief operating officer for Newton, in an interview.
Newton is one of many police departments across the country examining police reform in response to a recent increase in public outcry and calls for police reform.
David M. Kennedy, a professor of criminal justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, said it is “absolutely routine” for police departments to bring in external groups like Strategy Matters.
“If you need reform in an agency, the people within that agency are not necessarily the best people to offer feedback,” Kennedy said in an interview. “Policing in America is fundamentally organized at the local level, so cities and departments often bring in outsiders who can offer a broader national perspective.”
Strategy Matters’ bid for the consulting services is in the upper end of a range of the $75,000 to $110,000 the city estimated as the “price point” for the services in September. The consultant will be expected to work closely with the Newton Police Reform Task Force, according to the request for proposals, and meet with a variety of officials for up to 60 hours.
Yeo described Strategy Matters as a “woman-owned consultant group that is very focused on helping a variety of organizations develop creative solutions to complex problems.”
Liz O’Connor, founder and principal of Strategy Matters, worked as deputy director of the Office of Strategic Planning at the Boston Police Department from 1994 to 2000.
In an interview, Yeo said Strategy Matters had assembled a “strong team” including a diversity, equity, and inclusion specialist and three Boston Police Department veterans who are “subject matter experts in community policing, police reform, and police leadership.”
It was “very important” the consultant had experience working with Massachusetts police departments, Yeo said.
While the six other firms that responded to the city’s request for proposals have addresses in Virginia, Illinois, Missouri, Florida, and New York, Strategy Matters is based in Dorchester and has worked with clients including the Boston Police Department, Boston Public Schools, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, according to its website.
Strategy Matters also is currently working on an “organizational assessment and strategic plan for the Navajo Nation Police Department,” O’Connor said in an email.
Newton recently selected the International Association of Chiefs of Police to help the city find a new permanent police chief for the city. Yeo said in an interview that Strategy Matters “will be working in conjunction” with the group.
Strategy Matters also will “provide expertise on emerging trends in policing” and “current legal constraints on policing reform,” according to the city’s request for proposals.
The committee that selected the firm included Yeo and four members of the Newton Police Reform Task Force: Malick Ghachem, Hattie Kerwin Derrick , Rob Lowe, and Task Force Chair Sonja Spears, according to a statement by the mayor.
The group evaluated proposals based on criteria listed in the request for proposals such as prior experience working with police departments, experience “with focus on structural and systemic racism,” staff qualifications, and an interview. The committee used a public bid process and interviewed finalists, the mayor said in a statement, before selecting Strategy Matters.
“They gave a great interview,” Yeo said of Strategy Matters. “The team was very impressed and rated them number one.”
Strategy Matters will help the Newton Police Reform Task Force examine, among other things, the mission, values, and goals of the Newton Police Department as well as current strengths and challenges “grounded in the perspectives of both community and department members, including the experiences of people of color,” according to the city’s request for proposals.
“The goal is to create a world-class culture of policing,” according to the city’s request for proposals,
The Task Force will also look at recommendations for strategic direction for the next five years and topics such as staffing levels and organization structure.
Mayor Fuller announced the creation of the Newton Police Reform Task Force on June 15 and allocated $200,000 in funds from a police cruiser replacement budget to pay an outside consultant. At the time, she said, the goal is to “undertake a holistic assessment of the department, and make recommendations on the policies, procedures, practices, and overall strategic direction for Newton’s policing effort.”
Gabriel Harrison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.