BUCKHANNON — Buckhannon may be the first municipality in the Mountain State to attain official accreditation for both its police and fire departments, the mayor told city council at its meeting Thursday.
After Buckhannon City Council unanimously approved the Buckhannon Police Department’s request to apply for accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement agencies, mayor David McCauley said, “We could potentially be the first and only city in West Virginia to have police and fire accreditation. We want to challenge our sister cities around us.”
Just a week prior to council’s approval of the BPD’s request to apply for CALEA accreditation, council at its Aug. 8 meeting gave its stamp of approval to the Buckhannon Fire Department’s request to apply for certification through the Commission on Fire Accreditation International.
Police chief Matt Gregory said Thursday although he was initially hesitant about how applying for CALEA accreditation would affect the department’s budget — just the cost of the application itself rings in at $8,400 — he has since learned that moving forward with the process won’t inhibit the budget.
“As you’re aware, we’ve been talking about CALEA accreditation for the police department for two or three months now, and we’ve looked at it in-depth,” Gregory told council.
“The reservations I had coming into it were financial. However, as we continued to meet with other agencies and investigate CALEA accreditation and had different meetings with the mayor, we have been reassured that, as far as financially, it won’t be anything that’s restrictive to the Buckhannon Police budget.”
Gregory said all his officers are on board with the idea.
“As we continue to investigate this and meet with all the officers of the police department, it is my firm belief not only in my interactions with them on a one-on-one basis, but collectively, that each of them want to be professional and they all want to do a good job and do it to the utmost of their ability,” the police chief said.
“CALEA is a positive thing, not just for the officers, but for the city, the citizens and all who visit here to have officers that adhere to these professional standards,” Gregory added.
The goals of CALEA are to strengthen crime prevention and control capabilities; formalize essential management procedures; establish fair and nondiscriminatory personnel practices; improve service delivery; solidify interagency cooperation and coordination; and increase community and staff confidence in the agency, according to the agency’s website, www.calea.org.
Gregory also read aloud a letter signed by all 11 BPD officers and the department’s secretary, Tim Smith, stating its collective desire to “realize full accreditation through CALEA.” The letter states the BPD wants to realize CALEA accreditation to “serve mankind; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against oppression and intimidation, and the peaceful against violence and disorder; and to respect the constitutional rights of all men to liberty, equality and justice.”
McCauley said the accreditation process may take two to three years, and just applying costs $8,400, but once accredited, the chief and officers will be able to take advantage of opportunities to attend special trainings and other CALEA-sponsored conferences.
“I think this is something we need to absolutely, unequivocally support as a council and I would entertain a motion that we approve the request of the members of our Buckhannon Police Department,” McCauley said.
Councilwoman Pam Cuppari made a motion to support the BPD applying for accreditation, which was seconded by councilman C.J. Rylands before passing unanimously.
Gregory said the only fully accredited agency in West Virginia is Parkersburg, while Granville and Charles Town are in the process of applying for accreditation.