State police awarded $225,000 no-bid contract for diversity report

WPRI/Susan Campbell

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island State Police leaders announced the hiring of a Chicago-based law enforcement consultant five days before they officially requested to skip the state’s bidding process and award him a nearly quarter-million-dollar contract, a Target 12 review of documents has discovered.

In a news release dated Feb. 17, the state police announced the hiring of “a nationally recognized law enforcement expert” to “help identify improvements particularly with regards to attracting, training and retaining a racially and gender-diverse department.”

The expert and his team, law enforcement veteran Terrance Gainer, will be paid $225,000, according to the agency.

State purchasing regulations require any contract above $5,000 to be put out for public bid, in an effort to attract competitive rates.

According to documents from the Department of Administration, the state police asked to circumvent the requirement using a “non-competitive bid request” form on Feb. 22, five days after they had already announced Gainer’s hiring. The form was filled out on the same day Target 12 requested the purchasing documents from the state.

Two applications were submitted that day: the original form, signed by State Police Col. Ann Assumpico, asked why Gainer is the “only practical available vendor” to get the contract. Assumpico wrote, “Mr. Gainer was selected after vetting his qualifications, his team’s qualifications, and an interview by the Colonel of Mr. Gainer.”

Later that day, Assumpico signed a revised request with more details, including a hand-written reference to a state law that allows no-bid contracts to be awarded to experts.

“There are a limited number of vendors that perform state police assessments of this nature,” Assumpico wrote on the revised application.

Target 12 contacted several national law enforcement consultants who say they have conducted similar assessments for other agencies. Michael Gennaco of the California firm OIR Group said in an email his company conducts reviews on police recruitment practices as part of its assessments.

“Most recently, we are conducting a systemic review of the Madison Wisconsin Police Department and included is a review of recruitment and hiring,” Gennaco said. “We have also written a public report regarding hiring practices of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.”

Jim Bueermann of the Washington, D.C.-based Police Foundation firm said that “there are a lot of places that do it.”

“This is commonplace,” he said in a phone interview.

Bueermann went on to say Gainer is a well-respected consultant in the law enforcement industry, describing him as a “smart guy.”

According to a resumé attached to the purchasing form, Gainer began his career with the Chicago Police Department in 1968, then ran the Illinois State Police before relocating to the nation’s capital to become the second in command with the 4,200 member Metropolitan Police Department.

In 2002 he was sworn in as the chief of U.S. Capitol Police, which handles security for Congress. He ended his law enforcement career as the U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms, “the chief law enforcement officer for the Senate.”

State police leaders have acknowledged recruiting a diverse force has presented challenges over the years.

Gov. Gina Raimondo told Target 12 she brought Gainer’s name to the previous colonel – Steven O’Donnell – before suggesting the name to his successor, Colonel Assumpico.

“He came highly recommended from my general counsel as someone who had a great reputation in the industry,” Raimondo said. “He was recommended to my staff from a number of different sources, then I kicked it over to Colonel Assumpico — she met with him, I think she met with other people as well.”

She added, “at the end of the day it was her decision to do this, this was not my decision.”

O’Donnell – who is an occasional analyst for WPRI 12 – declined to comment for this report.

State Police Maj. Robert Wall – the agency’s chief administrative officer – said Assumpico wanted to fast-track Gainer’s hiring and authorized using a “sole source” or non-competitive bid process.

“The colonel said she wanted [Gainer’s firm] to do this assessment based on the areas they focus on,” Wall said. “She wanted to make sure to secure this agency before other clients.”

The state police tapped into its share of the so-called Google money to pay for the $225,000 contract. In 2012, the agency received $45 million as part of settlement with the tech giant for assisting in a federal investigation.

In emails supplied to Target 12 by the state police, Wall asked for – and received – approval from the U.S. Department of Justice to tap into the Google funds on Feb. 13.

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook