Becoming accredited has never been a goal in itself for the Woodbridge Police Department. Accreditation and compliance to professional standards provides the yardstick by which the community, Police Administration, Mayor and Township Council can qualitatively measure our performance and ensure accountability of our actions.
Room for Improvement
Like all organizations, the Woodbridge Police Department continually looks for ways to upgrade its policies and procedures. No matter how effective daily operations are, there is always room for improvement.
The Meaning of Accreditation
Essentially, accreditation is a seal of approval from an independent agency. That doesn’t mean organizations without accreditation are sloppy in their business practices. But, by being accredited, these organizations illustrate the pursuit of excellence in their particular line of work and their willingness to meet and exceed industry standards.
In many fields, obtaining organizational accreditation is common practice. Colleges and hospitals, for instance, regularly participate in an accreditation process.
In the field of law enforcement, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) is the non-profit agency that grants accreditation. It was formed in 1979 by four major law enforcement bodies; the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Police Executive Research Forum, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, and the National Sheriff’s Association. Law enforcement agencies may voluntarily apply for accreditation, as many across North America have done. Over 700 agencies are currently accredited by CALEA with many more in various stages of the accreditation process.
Scope of the Standards
The standards cover six general areas:
- Roles, responsibilities and relationships with other agencies;
- Organization, management and administration;
- Personnel administration;
- Law enforcement operations, operational support and traffic law enforcement;
- Prisoner and court related services; and
- Auxiliary and technical services.
Instead, the goal was to confirm that existing operations and management conform to the spirit of the standards, formalize any unwritten or unstated policies, correct any deficiencies in operations, and refine and contemporize other procedures where necessary.
In the end, the standards simply tell the Woodbridge Police Department what it has to do. Just how we do it will still be based on accepted policing techniques in Woodbridge and the needs of the community.
Benefits of Accreditation
It is difficult to attach a dollar value to the benefits of the accreditation process. However, for the police and the public, the benefits are nevertheless numerous and tangible.
From the perspective of members of the public, the accreditation process:
- Reinforces the Woodbridge Police Department’s devotion to professionalism and a body of precise and high standards; and ensures the Woodbridge Police Department uses a consistent and evenhanded approach to applying effective and responsive policies.
- Enhance the reputation of the police service, and help attract the most qualified and suitable applicants;
- Increase morale by giving personnel faith in the Woodbridge Police Department’s effectiveness, and in the fairness of internal systems; and
- Provide state-of-the-art, up-to-date policy and procedures manuals.
And to other law enforcement agencies and components of the criminal justice system, accreditation:
- Improves interactions and strengthens relationships; and
- Promotes standardization of policies, and increases efficiency in handling joint investigations and referrals.