The ABCs of Accreditation
Accreditation is definitely a buzzword in the law enforcement arena, but what makes it worth all the blood, sweat and tears?
A is for Accountability. When an agency decides to go after accreditation, they will typically be asked to complete a self-assessment. The purpose of this period of up to three years is, well, getting your ducks in a row. The agency will comply with the standards set forth by their accrediting body, begin to develop proofs of compliance to be used during their on-site assessment, and schedule and prepare for that on-site. All of this build up and preparation gives an agency an idea of where they stand. How do they measure up to the industry standard? How much work do they need to do to be able to show they are in compliance? With policies, guidelines, authority, training, expectations and roles now clearly defined and in place, the entire agency is held accountable to these new norms of professionalism and excellence. It takes everyone to maintain accreditation once it’s earned.
B is for Bragging Rights. Being accredited is an honor and a commitment that requires a lot of ongoing hard work. Achieving accreditation puts your agency in an elite club, filling your officers with confidence and pride in their accomplishment. Whether at an industry conference or just going about your business in your area, other organizations will recognize your pledge to superior performance–and they just might follow your lead. Everyone wants to keep up with the Joneses a little bit.
C is for Community. In public safety especially, accreditation instills a sense of trust in the community surrounding an agency. Community members see the agency striving to the best they can possibly be–and holding themselves accountable to this standard–and that gives the public confidence in that organization, causing them to rally around it. As The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) highlights, becoming accredited also creates a forum in which law enforcement and citizens work together to prevent and manage the challenges confronting law enforcement, while providing clear direction about community expectations. The support of its community is extremely valuable to any agency.
While it doesn’t exactly fit into my fun little alphabet motif I’ve got going on here, it’s a key benefit of accreditation: R is for Risk. In today’s lawsuit-happy society, law enforcement agencies often become targets. The best defense against a risky attack on an agency’s credibility is established, written policies spelling out why and how an infraction, crime or violation was not committed. Accreditation guarantees these documents are already in place. Being accredited can do more than protect you from the risk associated with civil liability, though. Agencies accredited by CALEA also get a break on their insurance, including discounts for sworn officers, agency reimbursements for a percentage of accreditation fees, or grants.
To sum up, D is for Do It. Let’s face it, becoming accredited will definitely take your agency to the next level.