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Fri, Sept. 20

Local police departments seek accreditation

Camp Verde Marshal Corey Rowley. VVN/Bill Helm

Camp Verde Marshal Corey Rowley. VVN/Bill Helm

No Verde Valley police department is accredited. But three of the area’s departments – Camp Verde, Clarkdale and Jerome – are in the beginning stages of becoming accredited.

In the past, accreditation was expensive, said Jerome Police Chief Allen L. Muma.

Accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies – CALEA – would have cost Jerome PD $8,475 for the initial process, with another $3,470 each year to retain the status. This cost, for rural police departments, Muma said he could not justify.

The state’s rural police departments now can seek accreditation through the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police’s Law Enforcement Accreditation Program – ALEAP – and pay $250 for the initial accreditation process, $125 each year thereafter.

According to Accreditation Program Manager Kevin Rhea, right now there are 19 agencies enrolled in the program, including Clarkdale, Jerome and Camp Verde.

Clarkdale started the program in April, while Jerome and Camp Verde started in July.

Camp Verde Marshal Corey Rowley said that accreditation “results in greater accountability within the agency, reduced risk and liability exposure, stronger defense against civil lawsuits, increased community advocacy, and more confidence in the agency’s ability to operate efficiently and respond to community needs.”

Though not seeking accreditation at this time Cottonwood Police subscribes to Lexipol “to ensure our policies are best practice consistent with federal and state law,” Chief Steve Gesell said.

Lexipol is a provider of public safety policy and training solutions for law enforcement, fire and rescue, and corrections.

At a first-year cost of $9,328 and a cost of about $10,500 a year thereafter, Lexipol subscription also includes legal defense, Gesell said.

“In addition to Lexipol, we have a robust strategic plan we’re busy executing,” Gesell said. “Considering we’re in a good place currently, we’re waiting for other agencies to go through this process to determine value in it.”

Progressive nature

The ALEAP assessment team, according to Accreditation Program Manager Kevin Rhea, is composed of law enforcement practitioners from Arizona law enforcement agencies.

The assessors review written materials, interview agency members, and visit offices and other places where compliance with the standards can be observed, Rhea said. Once assessors complete an agency review, they report to the full commission, which decides if the agency is to be granted accredited status.

Being accredited isn’t just a badge of honor, no pun intended. According to Clarkdale Police Chief Randy Taylor, accreditation “gives us security in having other professionals examine our policies and procedures with a critical eye and evaluate them compared to the industry.”

“We want to always provide the best and most professional service to our community,” Taylor said. “Joining the state accreditation program is representative of our progressive nature.”

Taylor also said that accreditation also “provides a means of independent evaluation of agency operations.”

“We believe this will enhance our reputation as an agency and promote public confidence,” Taylor said. “We will be able to judge our agency’s performance based on a set of norms. We will held accountable to commit our policies and procedures to writing.”

Increased effectiveness and efficiency

Being accredited, said Camp Verde Sgt. Stephen Butler, is “not going to dictate the way we do our job.”

“It will provide a systematic method of conducting a detailed internal review of our policies, procedures, training and operations to ensure we meet the best practices,” Butler said. “What this means to the citizens of Camp Verde, it will increase our effectiveness and efficiency in the service we provide. It will establish standards that address and reduce liability for the agency and our members.

“In all, this is to improve our service delivery and build community trust by establishing a fair and non-discriminatory personal practices,” Butler said.

Once accredited, the status is valid for a four-year period during which time the police department is required to submit annual reports that illustrate its continued compliance to standards in which it was initially accredited.

Nationally accepted best practices

One of the main reasons Muma wanted Jerome Police to participate was that accreditation “is a statement to the public that the department follows nationally accepted best practices for life, health and safety procedures.”

The accreditation program, Muma said, “provides the framework for addressing high-risk issues within a contemporary environment, and ensures officers are prepared to meet basic community service expectations and are prepared to manage critical events.”

“This reduces liability, and provides for a department that is easier to defend in the event that there is a suit against it,” Muma said.

For more information about the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police’s Law Enforcement Accreditation program, visit azchiefsofpolice.org/aleap-accreditation-program.

The Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police (AACOP), is the accrediting agency in the State of Arizona.

Accreditation can take as long as two years

Once a police department has been accepted to participate in the Arizona Law Enforcement Accreditation Program, the department begins a self-assessment period.

The self-assessment process, according to Kevin Rhea, the accreditation program’s manager, can last as long as two years.

Rhea said that in his experience with accreditation, less than 10% of eligible agencies enroll and successfully complete the program.

“This is a select group of agencies that choose to take on this endeavor to prove to their community that they employ the most cutting edge best practices in law enforcement,” Rhea said.

During the self-assessment period, the agency must ensure they have policies in place to meet the 174 standards which have been identified by the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police (AACOP) as the best practices in the safe, effective and efficient delivery of law enforcement services in the State of Arizona.

Although some agencies may complete the self-assessment period within a year, Rhea said that “most agencies will complete the process between 18-24 months.”

The accreditation standards include role and authority, use of force, records management, information technology, fiscal management, code of conduct and detainee security.

Along with having policies in place, agencies are required to provide proofs of compliance to ensure that they not only meet or exceed the standard in written policy, but that they are actually following their policies.

“It’s not acceptable to just ‘talk the talk,’ but they must prove they are ‘walking the walk,’ Rhea said.

Once an agency has met the standard in policy and have proofs of compliance for all 174 standards, a trained team of assessors from the ALEAP program will complete an on-site assessment of both the agency and its accreditation files.

The results of that on-site assessment, Rhea said is presented to the entire commission. The commission will either recommend the police department be awarded accreditation to the AACOP board of directors, or that the police department b identified as out of compliance with the standards.

An out of compliance agency is then set on a path to become compliant within six months. 

Though accreditation is good for four years, the agency must provide proof of compliance each year to maintain accreditation. After that four-year period, the accredited police department is again assessed on-site before it can be reaccredited.

For information about the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police’s accreditation program, visit azchiefsofpolice.org/aleap-accreditation-program

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