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Salisbury Police Department receives international accreditation

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Salisbury Police Department was recently awarded international accreditation for the 26th year from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) Inc., which seeks to improve law enforcement service by creating a national body of standards.

It’s the ninth time the Salisbury Police Department has gone through the re-accreditation process. The award remains in effect for four years. Prior to this year, accreditation status was reviewed every three years.

After the department is awarded accreditation, they still must give a yearly status report to show continued compliance of standards.

The police department was evaluated by three people including a retired Ohio police chief and a retired Maryland police captain. The evaluators or assessors visit the police department and discuss everything from the racial makeup of traffic stops, disciplinary actions, recruitment, the racial makeup of promotions, evidence collection, and complaints.

“It’s an opportunity to measure ourselves against a standard for policies across the nation to make sure we are operating the best we can,” said Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes.

The police department’s accreditation manager Diana Gonzalez submitted boxes of paperwork to CALEA with examples of how the department was meeting its standards. She began compiling documents after the last accreditation process and after the close of this year will begin for the next four years.

She submitted items such as copies of its mission statement and newspaper clippings of stories that involve the department.

Stokes said it’s essentially a way to show assessors who evaluate them that the department does what it says it does in all of the documents it has already submitted.

There were 326 pages of standards.

“They give us a standard and we show them how we prove that standard,” Gonzalez said.

One of the standards may be how the police department secures its records or how it secures prisoners. An evaluator may ask to see a patrol car or see an arrest in progress and how a suspect is secured inside a patrol car.

The process requires rigorous self-assessment, a review of policies that are measured against internationally accepted public safety standards and followed by an evaluation by independent assessors. The assessors obtain feedback from the public through one-on-one interviews, phone calls, or letters. The assessors also meet with police personnel, other people with knowledge of the agency and go on ride-alongs with officers.

After the assessment, the decision to render accreditation is given by a group of 21 commissioners following a public hearing and review of all the documents the police department provided. Chief Stokes, Lt. Andy Efird, and Gonzalez all attended a commission conference March 25 in Mobile, Ala. where they appeared before the commissioners to answer questions about the department.

Stokes said the accreditation is very important because not all departments receive positive evaluations. Some law enforcement departments who were evaluated during this round of review did not receive accreditation and are on probation until a review in a year.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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