SAN BERNARDINO - City Hall officials are holding off on a plan to give a local criminologist and a former police chief an inside look at the Police Department.

Until recently, City Hall and police figures had discussed the possibility of hiring Cal State San Bernardino professor Larry Gaines and former Fontana and Rialto chief Frank Scialdone to evaluate management issues within the Police Department.

Those discussions followed events in September when the Police Officers Association made a very public break with Police Chief Michael Billdt's administration. Union leaders voted no confidence in Billdt, who soon after announced that he plans to retire in March.

Mayor Pat Morris has steadfastly supported Billdt, but also allowed that the city's law enforcement efforts could benefit from expert analysis of issues that contributed to the breach between police brass and rank-and-file. That's where Gaines and Scialdone would have come in.

But now it appears City Hall and police will wait until a new chief is in town to decide if any kind of police audit will be worthwhile.

"Chief Billdt's successor, together with the interested parties, are expected to re-evaluate the need, purpose and intent of this study once the new Police Administration is in place next spring," interim City Manager Mark Weinberg wrote in an e-mail Monday.

Billdt affirmed Weinberg's message.

"That's exactly correct," he said.

Gaines said the city's interest in hiring him and Scialdone had "sort of waned." Scialdone simply said it was the city's call whether he would work the project or not.

The contract to hire the pair was said to be worth $24,500, which is $500 short of the amount that would have required a City Council vote.

The issues that Gaines and Scialdone were to study were the department's use of force reporting procedures, the length of time it takes to complete internal affairs probes and the lack of an iron-clad policy to determine whether officers accused of misconduct are investigated internally or by outside agencies.

Mayoral chief of staff Jim Morris said that the decision to put the study on hold makes sense because whoever takes charge of the Police Department in March wouldn't be in a position to take ownership of any proposals Gaines and Scialdone make prior to that person taking office.

Also, police union president Rich Lawhead said City Hall may save the funds that would have been used to hire Gaines and Scialdone.

"You're going to have a whole new administration. Why waste the city's money?," he asked.

However, 1st Ward Councilwoman Esther Estrada - who previously criticized the proposed review because she was concerned it would not have addressed all issues affecting the Police Department - maintained that putting the probe on hold suggests that Morris and Weinberg are not doing enough to improve the Police Department.

"I guess we are no farther along with the new city manager than the last one," she said. "It doesn't surprise me."