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Police in final stretch for accreditation

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The Columbus Police Department is nearing the end of a three-year accreditation process to certify that officers and administrators follow nationally-established professional standards.

If accepted by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc., the department should be able to reduce the city’s financial liability, as well as attract and retain the highest-qualified recruits and officers, according to commission.

The Washington D.C.-based commission now wants to hear from Columbus-area residents about how Columbus officers carry out day-to-day responsibilities.

Two CALEA-trained assessors will attend a public hearing at 7 p.m. Aug. 11 in Columbus City Hall to listen to local residents talking about the department’s performance in four basic areas: policy and procedures, administration, operations and support services.

Comments also may be offered by telephone Aug. 11, between 1 and 3 p.m., by calling 376-2625, said CALEA spokeswoman Janice Dixon.

There are 188 CALEA standards for accredited law enforcement agencies to meet, Columbus Police Capt. Brian Wilder said.

“(CALEA) is kind of like a watchdog for police departments,” said Maj. Tony Arnett of the accredited Kokomo Police Department.

“Their standards assure that you don’t have a police department randomly changing its idea of how it does business.”

The accreditation process began in January 2012, supervised by former administrative captain Jon Rohde, who succeeded Jason Maddix as police chief in May.

Rohde said the most valuable thing about CALEA accreditation is that it serves as a reality check for any law enforcement agency striving for excellence.

“We go through all these internal efforts to do something right, but the CALEA assessors are neutral parties who provide an objective analysis on what we are doing right and where we need to improve,” Rohde said.

The past two-and-a-half years have been spent on an extensive self-assessment requiring the department to prove it was working to comply with CALEA standards, the police chief said.

That stage was completed July 1 when CALEA approved the department’s self-evaluation, Dixon said.

The Aug. 11 hearing is part of a three-day final evaluation by a CALEA assessment team, Dixon said. The team will then report its findings to the commission for final determination of accreditation status.

However, the Columbus Police Department will not learn whether it will receive accreditation until a CALEA conference Nov. 19 through 22 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Rohde said

The department may then reapply for the accreditation in three years, Rohde said.

“This will force us to review every single policy and procedure annually,” Rohde said.

Police have spent up to $18,000 on the accreditation process during the past three years, Rohde said. But it has already resulted in improvements, he said.

Performance evaluations, technical upgrades, the promotions process and support services have been improved.

Advancements have been made in the areas of performance evaluations, technical upgrades, the promotions process and support services, Rohde said.

Maddix, who now works as North America security adviser for Cummins Inc., said that under Rohde’s supervision, the accreditation process has already resulted in positive things for the community.

They include enhancing the department’s ability to prevent and control crime, improving community understanding of law enforcement and increasing public confidence in local law enforcement, Maddix said.

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