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City Hires Psychologists for Police Testing

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The San Diego City Council on Tuesday approved contracts with two psychologists and two companies to screen candidates for police officers and provide counseling and training for existing officers.

The contracts, the result of an extensive bidding process that began earlier this year, replace a single contract held for the past decade by Dr. Michael Mantell, a San Diego psychologist.

Councilman Ron Roberts on Tuesday directed the Police Department to report back in six months “on how the program is working. . . . This monitoring is going to be very important. . . . I’d like to know that we’re getting our money’s worth, so to speak.”

Dr. Russell Gold and Dr. Ira Grossman will each receive $130 per Police Department job applicant screened during the one-year contract. The city manager’s office calculated the total value of the contract at $76,898.

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Focus Psychological Services and Vista Hill Community Treatment Systems were awarded a $178,875 joint contract to provide psychological counseling and training for existing department employees.

Both contracts are renewable for two additional years.

Mantell had enjoyed a no-bid contract for the past decade, largely because few psychologists had the expertise needed to conduct the screening and counseling, Assistant City Manager Jack McGrory said in June.

“There were very few (bidders) when Mantell first bid who were qualified to do this kind of work,” he said. “But a lot has happened since then.”

McGrory described the recently completed bidding process as “competitive.”

The bidding, which drew 20 applicants for the two contracts, was overseen by representatives of the Police Department, the San Diego Society of Psychiatric Physicians and various city departments. Police Chief Bob Burgreen helped select the final candidates.

To ensure that proper screening occurs, the department is “laying out expectations of service, right down to the detail about what amount of time” should be spent with applicants, department spokeswoman Elizabeth Fort said Tuesday. The department is also developing a manual that will include “do’s and don’ts and areas that we have some concern about,” she said.

The city has not voiced any complaints about services provided by Mantell, who gained national attention after establishing the San Diego Police Department program and later helping officers who were traumatized in the 1984 McDonald’s massacre in San Ysidro. Mantell also held a number of contracts with law enforcement agencies around the county.

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But some critics have questioned whether Mantell, who holds similar contracts with other law enforcement agencies in San Diego County, was able to service the Police Department adequately.


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