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Editorial: Community benefits from police accreditation

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Residents of any community want to know that their police department is performing at a high level in ensuring public safety.

Responding quickly to emergencies, solving crimes, engaging the community and being a source of information are basic expectations that build confidence and trust.

Local residents should be encouraged that the Columbus Police Department is taking steps to make sure it is following nationally established professional standards. The department is at the tail end of a three-year accreditation process that began in January 2012.

This benefits the department and the public in multiple ways.

The accreditation process requires self-examination and approval by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc. By assessing every process and procedure internally, the police department gained a clear understanding of what it did well and what areas need improvement. Final analysis by the outside agency will objectively determine if Columbus police are meeting the 188 CALEA standards.

Receiving accreditation would be a validation of excellence, but it would provide additional benefits such as reducing the city’s financial liability and helping attract and retain highly qualified recruits and officers. That would benefit taxpayers and public safety.

About $18,000 has been spent on the accreditation process, and already it seems to be a wise investment. For example, police said performance evaluations, the promotions process, technical upgrades and support services have been improved. Additionally, police said the community has benefited because of the department’s greater ability to prevent and control crime, and the community’s confidence in and understanding of law enforcement has improved.

Don’t just take the word of the police, though. You have a chance to weigh in on the department’s performance as part of the accreditation process.

Two assessors trained by CALEA will attend a public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday in Columbus City Hall. They will also welcome comments via telephone from

1 to 3 p.m. that day if people call 376-2625. The assessors want to know how CPD performs in four areas: policy and procedure, administration, operations and support services.

Since the police serve community residents, their feedback is vital to get a complete picture of police performance.

Columbus police will learn in November whether accreditation has been granted.

While this process has been long, it has been important. CPD should continue the process in the future to make sure it continues to meet high standards. It would be good practice for other area emergency response agencies to also undergo similar accreditation processes — if available — to ensure that they are following best practices.

The benefits to the community and the agencies are well worth the investment of time and money.

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