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Duluth Police Department seeks review

Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken says he's ready for an objective, third-party review of his department, and on Monday night city councilors will decide whether to authorize the proposed $88,148 assessment of local law enforcement operations.

If approved, the city would enter into a contract with Berry Dunn McNeil & Parker LLC to evaluate the organizational structure, efficiency and performance of the Duluth Police Department.

Tusken has been 27 years on the job in Duluth, ascending to the top post as police chief in 2016, and said that during his tenure in uniform, the department has never undergone a thorough external review.

"So what typically happens is the person who ends up in the corner office says: 'This is what I think we should do.' And although we've had very talented chiefs up until I was here, we have not had an outside look from a consultant who has looked at many different organizations — some very progressive, some not so, some that are struggling financially and others that have a wealth of resources. Someone who comes in and looks at the things you do well, the things you should improve upon, the things that you do that you might not need to do, the things that are perhaps now done by officers that are now done mostly by civilians," he said.

"So, we're really talking about a comprehensive look at how your organization runs, top to bottom," Tusken said.

Although the proposed consulting firm, known as BerryDunn for short, submitted the low bid for the task, 2nd District City Councilor Joel Sipress sought assurances that the city wasn't simply going for the cheapest deal.

"This is the kind of thing where the quality of the consultant makes all the difference," he said

Tusken offered assurances that, in his opinion, BerryDunn was the best qualified respondent to the city's request for proposals.

"We went down a list of criteria that we thought were very important for us to evaluate in our organization, and as we went through this process, BerryDunn, far and away, spent more time with us helping us understand what they do," he said.

Several key figures in the firm also have extensive experience in law enforcement leadership, Tusken noted.

He said BerryDunn has been active, evaluating police departments across the nation.

"I think that all of that knowledge and experience they're going to be able to bring to us," Tusken said.

"We thought, far and away, they were much better than any other," he said.

At Large City Councilor Zack Filipovich said: "It's always good to take another look and have an outside view." He asked how soon the work would begin, if the contract is approved.

Tusken said he is eager to see the assessment launched as soon as possible, with the full review expected to take about six months to complete.

Filipovich asked if the police department evaluation would be made public, and Tusken responded that he expected it to be shared openly.

Peter Passi

Peter Passi covers Duluth city government and community issues. A graduate of Carleton College, he has worked as a reporter for more than 30 years and joined the Duluth News Tribune newsroom in 2000.

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