Best foot forward: City police set to host reaccreditation team

Becky Campbell • Aug 10, 2013 at 9:41 PM

The Johnson City Police Department will host a team of international law enforcement professionals next week in its sixth bid for reaccreditation in an effort to provide what department leaders say is a valuable service to the community.

“Verification by the team that our agency meets the commission’s state-of-the-art standards is a part of a voluntary process to gain accreditation, a highly-prized recognition of law enforcement professional excellence and a vital key to the level of service the department provides,” Chief Mark Sirois said about the upcoming review by CALEA, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc.

The department really never stops preparing for re-accreditation, a three-year process that culminates with a week-long on-site assessment by the visiting CALEA team.

Sgt. Lou Nelson has been preparing the department for the visit.

“We are in our 20th year of the program and this will be our sixth reaccreditation,” Nelson said. “The whole purpose is to develop best practices in law enforcement. CALEA has established standards that are best practices in the law enforcement field. It’s up to the agency to meet those standards in their own way.”

What that means, he said, is agencies seeking accreditation or reaccreditation must meet the standards, but how they do it is up to the agency.

An example, Nelson said, is the department’s pursuit policy.

“CALEA says you have to have a pursuit policy and has narrowed it down and said the agency has to address responsibility of supervisor, dispatcher and pursuing officer, but ... what those responsibilities are and whether you can or cannot pursue is left up to the agency,” he said.

“When the assessors come in, they look at a file that has documentation of situations where we have conducted pursuits and whether we have not conducted a pursuit. We have to not only talk the talk, we have to walk the walk.”

Part of the on-site assessment includes a public forum during which citizens may comment to the team about the department’s compliance with the standards it must meet. That meeting will be held Aug. 19 at 7 p.m. in the City Commission chambers at City Hall. If a citizen wants to comment but cannot attend, they can contact the assessment team Aug. 19 by calling 930-4809 from 2-4 p.m.

Nelson said the police department welcomes public input.

“In the past we’ve had some very good responses. This is a venue to address performance of the agency in regards to accreditation and the responses are normally very positive. It’s nice to see the public support,” he said.

Nelson said the accreditation process is important to keep the police department held to a high standard.

“It keeps us honest. It keeps us in a policy. It establishes how we perform our job.”

The assessment team is comprised of administrative- or management-level law enforcement professionals from across the country, and team members come from outside Tennessee.

CALEA is an international agency with approximately 1,100 agencies accredited in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean Islands, Nelson said.

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