An Accreditation of a Police Department

Fair Haven officials taking steps to start the process in 2013

It’s something the general public doesn’t normally hear in association with a police department, but rather with entities such as schools — accreditation.

There is, however, such a thing; and, Fair Haven officials are moving forward to start the accreditation process for the borough's police department.

It was brought up before the governing body recently. Fair Haven Police Chief Darryl Breckenridge sat before council and explained what he felt were the benefits of his department earning the status. Borough Administrator Theresa Casagrande told council that, in her opinion, such a move was an astute one.

"I will tell you that the recommendation to move forward with this project is a joint recommendation of myself and the chief," Casagrande told the governing body.

Now, Mayor Ben Lucarelli said, "the chief and borough administrator are finishing up the Request For Proposal (RFP), which will be posted on various Web sites. We anticipate awarding the contract by the year's end and starting the process in the beginning of 2013."

What does it mean for a police department to have the accreditation distinction? The gist is that once a department has earned the accreditation, its training and procedural standards are known to be of the highest caliber, in line with the state's Chiefs of Police Association.

Having the accreditation status then gives a police department high achievement visibility, staves off frivolous, expensive lawsuits and makes those filed more difficult to be won.

"The accreditation process benefits the police department and borough on several levels," Mayor Lucarelli explained. "In essence, it establishes a set of policies and procedures, which are tailored to the needs of the department and are also recognized as the standard of best practices by Chiefs of Police Association of NJ. The accreditation process raises the level of professionalism of the department, enhances ongoing training efforts, and reduces the risk exposure for the borough."

In effect, in the long run, the accreditation insulates the borough, maintains and elevates the police department's reputation and saves the borough money through insurance, other associated discounts and protection afforded to accredited departments, Chief Breckenridge said.

"Accreditation status represents a significant professional achievement," according to the Chiefs of Police Association of NJ Web site. "Accreditation acknowledges the implementation of policies and procedures that are conceptually sound and operationally effective."

The process a department must undergo, however, is a long, intricate and arduous one, involving pouring through years' worth of procedure manuals and associated records. It's one with which "every little entity must be involved," Breckenridge said. But it is a process from which he also said he felt the department and residents would benefit immeasurably.

"It helps you to know that your police department is in the forefront based on best practices around the country — national and state," Breckenridge said. "We (will) have to follow certain policies and account for them ... It's a great thing."

The cost, Casagrande said, is in line with the borough's budget. Hiring a consultant to facilitate the process is estimated to cost roughly $30,000, and "we don't anticipate it will exceed the bid threshold" and does not affect the overtime budget, she added. The department could undertake the endeavor on its own, but that would cut into its overtime budget, making it more costly and lopping off manpower for the duration.

The administrator explained that $10,000 was moved from overtime to training (under which the accreditation project would be covered), where there was already $14,000. There is also another $1,500 available from a grant source.

"I think it is fair to say that I would expect the chief of police to make the best recommendation for the police department," Casagrande said. "I take any recommendation from department heads and look at it in light of all factors, budgetary and other ...  for an operation as complex as law enforcement is, no matter how small the town, you have to be sure that the polices you have in place and resulting training that goes along with those policies is adequate enough to make sure that there isn't anything that's missing should something become a problem."


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