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UMBC police seeks accreditation

On Feb. 4, UMBC Chief of Police Mark Sparks informed the student body via email that the UMBC Police Department would undergo on-site assessment to ensure the department meets professional standards. UMBC police are currently awaiting a response from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

CALEA is an organization that seeks to “improve the delivery of public safety services, primarily by: maintaining a body of standards, developed by public safety practitioners, covering a wide range of up-to-date public safety initiatives; establishing and administering an accreditation process; and recognizing professional excellence.”

In preparation to become accredited by CALEA, Accreditation Manager Robert Jagoe for UMBC police assisted them in their pursuits. Making sure they met the numerous – upwards of 100 – standards was just one of Jagoe’s jobs.

“[Those] standards are designed to help our agency get in line with national law enforcement standards and their best practices,” said Paul Dillon, deputy chief of police.

Dillon said, “We’ve spent the last 18 months really working forward to get all our standards, practices and procedures not only in line with accreditation standards but making sure our officers are following those procedures in order for us to meet the standards.”

These standards include policies for use of force, procedures for traffic stops, policies for arrest, managing of evidence, etc. In order to be ready for accreditation, UMBC police had to rewrite old policies in order to ensure they met CALEA standards.

However, having the standards on paper was only the first step. Making sure officers were following standards and implementing them was the key to gaining accreditation. CALEA requires proof of standard compliance such as memos, reports and even photographs.

CALEA also takes into account the physical make-up of the police station to make sure it is up to standard. Security measures such as cameras and up-to-date processing areas are vital.

However, all the preparation and refinement of UMBC police have led up to the official accreditation review which took place Feb. 8-10. It was conducted by Paul Verrecchia, the College of Charleston’s retired chief of police, and team member Tim Potts, chief of police at the University of Mississippi.

Although there were no physical or written tests, UMBC officers were interviewed by the CALEA team.

UMBC police have not received an official answer yet, but Dillon indicates that they received positive feedback. CALEA and UMBC police will now receive an official report of the UMBC Police Department’s progress from Verrecchia and Potts.

CALEA will not reveal UMBC police’s accreditation status until their conference on July 27-30. The assessors will testify before the before the CALEA board and then they will receive their official answer. UMBC police will attend the conference in Baltimore, where they will learn whether they meet the criteria to obtain official accreditation.

If they become certified they will have to repeat the accreditation process every three years, as well as keep up with any subsequent changes in standards. If the UMBC Police Department is rejected, CALEA will inform them as to what they need to do to earn accreditation.