By Mike Steely

Senior Writer

What is the climate at the city police department?

That’s the question that the new police chief is asking the Knoxville City Council for help to find out. The council voted Tuesday to accept a $40,250 donation from the East Tennessee Foundation to hire a consultant to find out about the attitude among the police force.

21CP Solutions LLC was authorized to perform a “climate assessment” of the department although the new police chief, Paul Noel, won’t take office for a couple of weeks. City council members had some questions and concerns about approving something for someone who isn’t yet an employee.

Councilwoman Seema Singh asked if the new study is needed because of a prior study already authorized. Deputy Mayor David Brace replied that the prior study “is still in process” and added that the climate of attitude is something that Noel specifically requested.

Councilwoman Gwen McKenzie said that Noel’s requested research would be “more in-depth” than the other study. Councilwoman Janet Testerman called the request “a little bit premature” and said the city already has a human resources department to conduct such a study.

City Attorney Charles Swanson said that Noel’s request is “simply a tool to be used by the new leadership.” He added, “These folks are experts for this type of study.”

Mayor Indya Kincannon said such a study could help with retention and recruiting and noted the study is not being paid for with city funds.

Councilman Tommy Smith said the council shouldn’t be second-guessing the new chief and noted some “unique challenges” in the department.

“We’ve had cultural issues for many years, we have to address the issue,” said Councilwoman McKenzie.

The council voted to permit the outside funding for the climate study of the police department.