Police Chief Jarrad Berkihiser

Lancaster city Police Chief Jarrad Berkihiser talks about the Community Police Working Group at police headquarters on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. 

A group formed to improve police-community relations in Lancaster city in the wake of last summer’s controversial stun gun incident is seeking a consultant to help it develop a strategic plan.

The Community Police Working Group has been meeting roughly weekly since it formed in July, police Chief Jarrad Berkihiser said.

That was just days after a city police officer used a stun gun on an unarmed, seated man.  A bystander’s video of the incident went viral online, and the officer's actions were widely criticized. 

Since then, the police have adopted a revised use-of-force policy and begun implementing a body-camera program.

The working group’s dozen members include city and police officials along with church and community leaders and a representative from the U.S. Department of Justice.

A strategic plan is in the works, and it was felt that some outside expertise would be helpful, Berkihiser said.

The group organized a community meeting at the end of August. The volunteer facilitators who helped moderate the August meeting’s small-group discussions have since met twice and want to continue their involvement, the group said.

According to an official request for proposals, the working group is seeking a facilitator with experience in working with community groups and law enforcement and “addressing issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

The deadline is Feb. 15. The group hopes to make its choice by early March.

Working group member Blanding Watson, president of the Lancaster NAACP, said the selection process must be “transparent and neutral” and that the community at large should have a chance to weigh in.

The organization first sought a consultant last fall. It got one response, so it was decided to conduct a second round in hopes of giving the group more choices, said Milzy Carrasco, city director of neighborhood engagement.

She declined to name the respondent for now, but said the application was a strong one.

Berkihiser estimated the group would work with the consultant for about a year, then evaluate whether a further extension was warranted.

The group’s solicitation stipulates a budget “not to exceed” $8,000 to $10,000. However, Carrasco said that’s an initial outlay and could be exceeded. The group hopes to cover the full expense with grants, she said.

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