Americus Police Department close to state certification

Published 2:25 pm Monday, October 23, 2017

By Beth Alston

AMERICUS — A three-member team visited the Americus Police Department recently. They spent the first day reviewing files and talking with various personnel. The second day they were taken on a tour of the city by Americus Police Chief Mark Scott, all this in the process of obtaining state certification.
Bruce Carlisle, team leader for the State Certification Program, is the chief of police in Lavonia. The program is governed by the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police in conjunction with the Georgia Sheriffs Association. Carlisle also serves as the chair of the State Certification Committee.
He explained what state certification is.
“It’s a progressive and time proven way of helping law enforcement agencies review and improve their overall performances,” he said. “The foundation of certification lies in the development of standards contained in a clear statement of professional objectives.”
He said that the Americus Police Department has developed those standards (numbering 129). The agency must meet those standards or they can receive a waiver if they don’t do one of the functions. For example, Carlisle said, here in Americus, the police department doesn’t hold prisoners at the department, so they can get a waiver, “and a few other minor things they’ve gotten a waiver on.”
The three-member team spent a full day going through files at the Americus Police Department to make sure they have the standards in place and have policies that meet each standard, “to say that the agency is going to comply with that standard … from this point forward.”
Carlisle pointed out that this is the Americus Police Department’s initial certification, “so from this point forward, this is what they’re going to do.” In three years, he said, another set of assessors will come in and “make sure that for the past three years that they’ve done what they said they were going to do.”
Carlisle said it’s his understanding that the Americus Police Department will continue their professional standards and the achievement of national accreditation. “The three years will become four then,” he said.
Carlisle also explained the benefits of being a certified agency.
“It confirms that the agency practices are consistent with progressive, professional standards; greater operational and administrative effectiveness; enhanced understanding of professional policies and practices; greater public confidence in the agency; recognition in the field of outstanding achievement; greater governmental and community support.”
The State Certification Program has been around since 1990, Carlisle pointed out, and “caught a lot of traction” in about 1996.
The next step in the process is that Carlisle will make the recommendation to the Certification Committee that the Americus Police Department receive state certification.
“I have no doubts that that will be approved,” he said. Then it will go to the Joint Review Committee which will make the final determination based on his recommendation and the approval of the State Certification Committee. At that point, Americus Police Chief Mark Scott will be notified and there will be a ceremony in which the department will be presented a plaque. That could happen as early as December. Carlisle recognized Eric English as the APD’s state certification manager, for his outstanding job in the review process. He also praised the chief.
“Chief Scott’s been here a year and seven months, and it’s pretty phenomenal … usually for an established chief, it’s two years. Him coming in as a new chief and to get certified in a year and seven months is a big deal … He’s to be commended for that … They’re all to be commended. If you don’t have the buy-in from your department, you’re apt to fail. We can tell by looking at the files that we do have buy-in,” he said.
Carlisle introduced the other team members.  Jimmy Black from Jones County is an assessor. Jeremy Taylor from the Cordele Police Department is a “shadow,” and observes what the team does a couple of times before becoming an assessor.
There are over 650 law enforcement agencies in the state; of those, about 123 are state certified, according to Carlisle. There is no mandate for state certification; it’s something that agencies choose to do in order the reap the benefits.
The Americus Police Department was state certified in 2003, but lost certification in 2008, according to records found in the department’s files.