Police begin long process to become nationally accredited

BUCKHANNON — The Buckhannon Police Department is eager to become a nationally accredited law enforcement agency — so long as the cost of becoming accredited doesn’t affect day-to-day operations of the department, chief Matt Gregory told Buckhannon City Council Thursday evening.

In August, council approved a request from the BPD to pursue accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, a prestigious oversight body that ensures agencies adhere to a national set of standards engineered by law enforcement professionals. To that end, Gregory and Lt. Doug Loudin traveled to a CALEA conference Nov. 15-18 in Jacksonville, Fla., to learn more about how to apply for and maintain accreditation.

Gregory told council he and Loudin had learned about the self-assessment phase of the application process and were introduced to the software used to keep track of adherence to accreditation standards, PowerDMS.

“We learned a great deal,” Gregory said. “I took a large amount of notes. I have quite an electronic file that I’ve been going through since we’ve been back. We have been testing our systems pursuant to the information that we gained on preparing for and going through the self-assessment process.

“As we progress toward 2018, we’re working toward the enrollment phase and the beginning of self-assessment,” Gregory added.

In addition, the officers learned more details about the cost of applying for and preserving accreditation. While enrollment in the application process costs $8,475, becoming certified is a three-year process, Gregory said. Other fees will include the cost of traveling to annual conferences, which add up to about $3,000; $1,400 for an annual web assessment; and a $2,900 on-site assessment that’s conducted every four years, the police chief said.

“If we enroll in 2018, we would earn accreditation in 2021,” Gregory said. “The average cost of accreditation beyond the initial self-assessment phase, the estimated annual cost is $7,870, but it would be more every four years when an on-site assessment is required.” 

The police chief said council and the department will need to be mindful of those figures in crafting fiscal budgets in the years to come.

“Certainly, as we progress toward enrollment and going through the self-assessment phase, these are numbers to keep in mind that we will have to work into our budget for not only this fiscal year but as we progress over the next several fiscal years … above and beyond the regular operating budget of the police department,” Gregory said.

Councilman CJ Rylands, an early supporter of the BPD becoming CALEA-certified, said he knew Gregory had been worried about the cost from the outset.

“I think that was one of your concerns going into this, the fiscal cost associated with that,” Rylands said. “I know I’m in support of getting this anywhere we can, if it’s our discretionary funds or whatever, that it wouldn’t impact your budget and if you feel that this is a worthwhile endeavor. After going down there, did you change your viewpoint at all?”

Gregory said believes CALEA is “a very professional endeavor to achieve.”

“You do this not because you have to, you do this because it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “I believe that adequately sums up CALEA — it’s the right thing to do. The management practices that are established through CALEA are incredibly sound. They’re very professional, and it produces a tremendous amount of accountability across the board for each individual officer and the agency as a whole.

“My concern was the cost,” he continued. “As we bring our needs as a department — just our regular day-to-day operating needs each fiscal year — I didn’t want to run into a snag where we were sacrificing services to pay for something that we should already be doing anyway.”

Time management had been another one of Gregory’s concerns, he said. He said the BPD and council need to be “cognizant” of the increased administrative workload that will be placed on managers, including himself and Loudin, as a result of continually monitoring the department’s adherence to CALEA standards. It could be difficult and overwhelming for officers to perform regular police patrol duties and conduct investigations, while also being expected to undertake the larger amounts of administrative work stemming from the implementation of CALEA standards.

Councilman David Thomas asked if Gregory felt the BPD should move forward with the accreditation process.

“Do you feel the cost involved and also the staffing hours that are required to go through the accreditation … that you’ll have a more professional department?”

Gregory said that complying with CALEA standards will lead to each officer becoming a more professional officer “and that’s why I’m such a believer in that concept.”

“We all want to be professional,” the police chief said. “We want to offer the most professional service that we can to the citizens of Buckhannon. Not to sound like a broken record, but that’s the right thing to do. It’s just going to take commitment from us, from council to progress forward as we continue with this.

“It’s really a mark of distinction for the agency, as well as the community that they represent,” Gregory added.

Currently, the Parkersburg Police Department is the only CALEA-accredited agency in West Virginia, while two other Mountain State agencies — the Charles Town Police Department and the Granville Police Department — are in the application and self-assessment phase, accrording to CALEA’s website, www.calea.org.

Rylands said council would back the BPD in working to attain CALEA accreditation.

“I think if you have the commitment to spend the time, myself and I think all of us will support the cost so we’re on even ground here and ready to move forward,” he said. “So if there’s something we need to do now to allocate these funds, let us know.”

Mayor David McCauley said council would factor CALEA costs into the 2018-2019 fiscal year budget when it begins work on that early next year. 

In other BPD news, Gregory awarded the following Volunteers in Police Service members with a certificate of appreciation for their service in 2017: Steve Wykoff, David Rowan, Morgan Clutter and Jamie Hasbrouck. Gregory also recognized the following members who weren’t present at Thursday’s meeting, including Jewel Fisher, Cory Fox, Morgan Cox and McKenna Polen.

Gregory also announced that Patrolman Joseph Barcus had submitted his resignation, effective Dec. 28 to accept a position with another police agency.

More In Local News