Mark Scott: Americus Police Department to participate in state certification program
The Americus Police Department has signed a contract with the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police to participate in the Georgia Law Enforcement Certification Program (State Certification). There are a little over 100 certification standards divided into eight key areas: The Role and Authority of Law Enforcement Agencies, Management and Organization, Personnel, Legal Issues, Operations, Support Services, Communications, and Holding Facilities. Each of these areas contains specific standards which reflect the current best practices for law enforcement agencies across the State of Georgia. The standards are in their fifth edition and are regularly updated to reflect the latest national trends in law enforcement practices and the latest technological advances.
The first step toward achieving State Certification is to conduct a thorough policy review, comparing our current policies and procedures against the state standards. As the review progresses, we must update and modify our current policies to reflect the best practices recommended by the standards. This is a slow process as each revised policy must be distributed to the whole department and implemented through training and often through changes in how we perform certain tasks or prepare reports. As our policies come into line with the state standards, we must begin to gather documentation to prove that we not only have policies that comply with the requirements of each standard, but that we actually follow the guidelines of our policies and do the things we say that we do. We hope to be able to complete our policy review and revision by the end of 2016.
The next step in the process is to have a team of volunteer assessors from other state certified agencies come to Americus and conduct a review of our certification files. These “Mock Assessors” will go over our agency with a fine tooth comb, comparing our policies against the standards to make sure they are in compliance. They will also inspect all of our facilities, conduct interviews with employees, and ride along with our personnel to make sure that they actually know what our policies are and that they follow them. The Mock Assessment Team will give us a full report of their findings and we will then go to work correcting any problems they identified and rewriting any policies they found to be lacking.
Once we feel confident that we are fully in compliance with all of the applicable standards, we will contact the State Certification Director and schedule an on-site assessment with an actual State Assessment Team. The team will spend two full days reviewing our files, inspecting facilities and interviewing personnel and community members. They will then submit a report of their findings to a Joint Committee composed of members of the Georgia Chiefs Association. This committee will review the Assessment Team’s findings and determine whether or not we will be awarded State Certification.
This is a long and difficult process, but it is extremely valuable to the police department and to the citizens of Americus. State Certification ensures that we, as an organization, are current with best practices for law enforcement and that we are open and transparent in all of our policies and procedures. In short, it keeps us up to date and on our toes. We know that once we achieve certified status, we must continue compliance with all of the standards so that when an Assessment Team comes back every three years they will recommend that we maintain our certification. Further, once we achieve State Certification we intend to begin working toward National Accreditation, a process involving over 400 standards of compliance!
Mark A. Scott is Chief, Americus Police Department.