WHAT IS ACCREDITATION?
Accreditation is a progressive and time-proven way of helping institutions evaluate and improve their overall performance. The cornerstone of this strategy lies in the promulgation of standards containing a clear statement of professional objectives. Participating administrators then conduct a thorough analysis to determine how existing operations can be adapted to meet these objectives. When the procedures are in place, a team of independent professionals is assigned to verify that all applicable standards have been successfully implemented. The process culminates with a decision by an authoritative body that the institution is worthy of accreditation.
The practice of accrediting institutions began more than 200 years ago. The concept has been used in fields as diverse as education, corrections and health care.
Accreditation provides formal recognition that an institution meets or exceeds general expectations of quality in their field. In essence, accreditation acknowledges the implementation of policies that are conceptually sound and operationally effective.
The New York State Law Enforcement Accreditation Program provides a formal mechanism by which the activities of law enforcement agencies can be systematically updated, measured and evaluated. The program has four principal goals:
- To increase the effectiveness and efficiency of law enforcement agencies utilizing existing personnel, equipment and facilities to the extent possible;
- To promote increased cooperation and coordination among law enforcement agencies and other agencies of the criminal justice system;
- To ensure the appropriate training of law enforcement personnel; and
- To promote public confidence in law enforcement. Participation in the Accreditation Program is voluntary.
- There are no charges for any program services or materials.
ACCREDITATION IS WORTH THE EFFORT!
The New York State Law Enforcement Accreditation Program enables administrators to strengthen existing procedures while simultaneously creating a solid foundation for the agency’s future. The benefits of accreditation include:
- Independent confirmation that policies comply with professional standards
- Assurance of fair recruitment, selection and promotion processes
- Diminished vulnerability to civil law suits and costly settlements
- Enhanced understanding of agency policies and procedures
- Greater administrative and operational effectiveness
- Greater public confidence in the agency
“I believe that by becoming accredited, our agency has gained respect in the local law enforcement community. All personnel know what is expected of them, and held to those standards. Our General Orders Manual is now comprehensive and up to date. Any officer who is considering a lateral transfer from another agency has a good idea of what is expected.”
ChiefMichael Walsh, Geddes Town Police Department
“Having met the rigorous and demanding standards set forth by the New York State Law Enforcement Accreditation Program, the Livingston County Sheriffs Office has achieved a level of professionalism designed to improve the overall agency performance, effectiveness, and efficiency. In addition, we are better positioned to promote increased cooperation among law enforcement agencies, ensure appropriate training of law enforcement personnel, and promote public confidence in law enforcement.”
Sheriff John M. York, LivingstonCounty Sheriffs Office
“The Accreditation Program helps departments maintain a consistent focus and sense of priority and provides an ideal format for maintaining comprehensive, organized records. Accreditation provides tangible reassurance to the community that its police department meets the highest professional standards as determined by an independent, qualified authority.”
Chief Tom Voelkl, Brighton Town Police Department
“Law enforcement accreditation is important to the Broome County Sheriff s Office because it builds public confidence and trust, ensures that all members know their role and responsibilities, and assures agency accountability.”
Sheriff David Harder, BroomeCounty Sheriffs Office
“Accreditation instills a sense of professionalism in the Department. Members are proud of achieving this accomplishment and wear their accreditation pins with pride. Accreditation standardizes law enforcement, and ensures agencies are following recognized standards for the betterment of their agency and the citizens they serve.”
Sheriff Gary Maha, GeneseeCounty Sheriffs Office
“As the Chief of a police department of 51 officers and 10 civilian personnel, I have appreciated the benefits of accreditation. In addition to the recognition inherent with being a member of an accredited agency, the practical benefits are many. I have found that the quality of service provided by the men and women of the Yorktown Police Department to the community has improved. Our management of case investigations wherein officers are required to follow-up on criminal and non-criminal cases has resulted in more cases being closed. Another area of improvement is the manner in which our training function is handled. Yet another example is the need to stay focused on goals and objectives we set for the Department each year. The Yorktown Police Department was first accredited in 1991. The Department was reaccredited in 1996, and again in 2001. I find that our continued commitment to the standards established through the accreditation program helps the Department maintain its focus on the areas identified by the law enforcement community as those most important to our function of protecting the community.”
Chief Robert Arruda, Yorktown Town Police Department
“December 1999, was a very important date in the history of the Albany Police Department. It was on this date that we joined a group of progressive law enforcement agencies awarded accreditation status by the State’s Law Enforcement Accreditation Council. Our purpose in embarking down the long and demanding road toward accreditation was simple, professionalism. While we felt that we were doing our job well, we needed to be able to appraise our department when compared to a set of professional standards. This allowed us to see where we needed improvement. Once achieved, accreditation allowed us to institutionalize rules and standards of our own so that as we move into the future, we have our own benchmark to guarantee that we are always providing our citizens with a police department of the highest professional level.
Parallel to the rise in the quality of the work produced by our department is a rise in the esprit de corps of the officers. Accreditation is the kind of recognition that encourages and enhances pride in police officers. As their pride in the work they do, and that of the department as a whole increases, the quality of their work improves even more, as does their desire to improve all aspects of their department. All these things work together to produce a highly professional police department that enjoys a strong sense of esprit de corps, as well as the trust and confidence of the citizens they serve. We are pleased that the efforts taken to earn accreditation are achieving exactly the goals we had hoped for – our pursuit of professionalism.”
Commissioner John C. Nielsen, Albany City Police Department
The President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice (1967) called for significant improvements in all aspects of the American criminal justice system. Most of the recommendations dealt directly or indirectly with the police. More specifically, the Commission urged law enforcement agencies to implement sweeping reforms in personnel structure, officer selection and training, community relations, and overall management practices. It also advocated enhanced coordination of services and greater clarification of operational policies.
Important legal developments subsequently made the need to improve law enforcement services even more urgent. In 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court held for the first time that a municipality can be held directly liable for violating a person’s constitutional rights under 42 USC, section 1983, of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 (Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York). The courts have critically examined the operations of municipal governments and public agencies ever since.
In 1983, the New York State Sheriffs’ Association responded to the challenge that these developments represented when it became the first organization of law enforcement executives in the country to develop an accreditation program for its members. The sheriffs’ initiative was very successful, and a demand quickly grew for an accreditation program that would be available to all New York agencies that employ sworn personnel.
A blue-ribbon planning committee was formed in 1986 to explore the feasibility of developing a statewide program. Representatives of the State Associations of Chiefs of Police, the State Sheriffs’ Association, the State Police and the State Division of Criminal Justice Services served on this committee. A separate Subcommittee was formed the following year to draft specific standards for the Planning Committee’s review.
Enabling legislation was introduced in the State Senate and Assembly in 1987. The bill passed unanimously in both houses and was signed into law in August of 1988. The Planning Committee and Subcommittee worked through the beginning of 1989. On March 20, 1989, the Accreditation Council met for the first time. The Council reviewed and where necessary revised the materials that had been developed thus far. The State Division of Criminal Justice Services then sent copies of the draft standards and rules and regulations to the Temporary President of the Senate, the Speaker of the Assembly, and to every law enforcement agency, mayor and appropriate town and county official in the State. The Council met in June to review the comments that were subsequently received. Several standards were modified in response to the suggestions that were made.
The Council sponsored a comprehensive pilot test during the summer of 1989 to identify the types of problems that might be incurred during implementation. The results demonstrated that the standards were reasonable and that they could be successfully implemented by agencies of all sizes.
A total of 17 law enforcement agencies served on the Planning Committee, Subcommittee, and/or participated in the program’s pilot test. These agencies ranged in size from seven full-time officers to just over 4,000 sworn personnel. In addition, officers from 50 other law enforcement agencies and elected officials from 17 municipalities provided input during the development of the initial standards.
The program became fully operational in December 1989. In the years that followed, the Council adopted several policies to facilitate program operations and oversaw the preparation of extensive resource materials to assist participating agencies.
The Council formed a committee in December of 1994 to conduct a comprehensive review of the program standards. The review was undertaken to determine if all of the requirements were still appropriate, to identify standards that should be clarified, consolidated, or otherwise modified, and to identify any new issues that the standards ought to address. The committee had representatives from six accredited and four unaccredited agencies of all sizes. The agencies represented communities from Long Island to Genesee County.
Most of the recommendations that the Committee offered were approved by the Accreditation Council in the fall of 1995. This action reduced the number of standards from 169 to 144, but did not otherwise affect the scope or impact of the initiative.
In October 2001, the Accreditation Council adopted a third edition of revised and newly drafted standards after a comprehensive review was completed by a committee of practitioners. The Committee was tasked to analyze the wording of each standard for clarity and appropriateness and to propose new standards where justified. As a result of the Committee’s work, the Council was presented with 130 standards for consideration. The reduction in the number of standards from 144 was primarily due to the consolidation of a number of standards. The 130 standards included 4 newly drafted requirements. The changes eliminated duplication and unnecessary paper work without compromising the integrity of the program.
The Accreditation Program will continue to evolve in ways that are consistent with changing legal and social developments. As it does, the Council is committed to the task of ensuring that the program remains responsive to the needs of New York’s law enforcement community.
New York’s Law Enforcement Accreditation Program is designed to promote maximum input from both community and law enforcement leaders. The Accreditation Council, the State Division of Criminal Justice Services, the State Chiefs’ and Sheriffs’ Associations, and the State Police all play an active role in the program’s administration.
The Accreditation Council
The Accreditation Council provides overall direction and consists of 17 members appointed by the Governor. The Council meets quarterly and issues standards, sets policy, and has exclusive authority to grant accreditation status. Members include representatives from the State Chiefs’ and Sheriffs’ Associations, the superintendent of the State Police, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department, an official of a statewide police labor organization, an incumbent police officer, a deputy sheriff and a college professor of criminal justice. Other members represent the Association of Counties, the Association of Towns, the Conference of Mayors, the State Senate, and the Assembly.
The New YorkState Division of Criminal Justice Services
The enabling legislation established the Accreditation Council within the State Division of Criminal Justice Services. Personnel at the Division’s Office of Public Safety serve as the staff arm of the Council, providing technical support to participating agencies and all aspects of daily administration. Division staff also works with an Assessor Selection Committee which reviews applications from law enforcement professionals who wish to serve as assessors. The Committee consists of the Executive Directors of the State Chiefs’ and Sheriffs’ Associations, the Superintendent of State Police, and the DCJS Deputy Commissioner in charge of the Office of Public Safety.
The Accreditation Council has divided the program standards into three categories. Standards in the Administration section have provisions for such topics as agency organization, fiscal management, personnel practices and records.
Training standards encompass basic and in-service instruction as well as training for supervisors and specialized or technical assignments. Operations standards deal with such critical and litigious topics as high-speed pursuits, roadblocks, patrol, and unusual occurrences.
Participating agencies are normally expected to implement all program standards. Some standards do not apply to all agencies, however, and waivers may be obtained in exceptional circumstances. The Council also recognizes that State and local laws, Codes, Rules and Regulations, and current bargaining agreements are binding in nature. As such, they take precedence over program standards and definitions.
The standards provide a detailed blueprint for professionalism that every law enforcement agency in the State can meet. The standards are:
The Accreditation Program has been endorsed by major law enforcement management and labor groups in New York as well as by the leading State associations of elected officials. Several private insurance companies have also demonstrated their confidence in the accreditation process by offering accredited agencies significant discounts in annual liability premiums.
Program standards were drafted with the practitioner in mind by experienced law enforcement professionals. Consequently, the standards do not require agencies to establish specialized units or purchase expensive new equipment. Agencies of all sizes have successfully implemented every program requirement.
Program standards specify what an agency must do to achieve accreditation status, not how the agency should go about doing it. The standards allow chief executive officers to address local concerns in the ways that they deem most appropriate.
Uniquely Suited to New YorkState
Program standards incorporate key provisions of New York State laws, Codes, Rules and Regulations, and requirements set for by the Municipal Police Training Council. The standards were designed by New York State law enforcement professionals specifically for New York State law enforcement professionals.
Evaluation data demonstrate that the implementation of program standards has helped agencies of all sizes to enhance the quality of their services in specific, cost-effective ways. The standards have earned the confidence and support of law enforcement executives throughout the State.
PATHWAY TO COMMUNITY SUPPORT
Public scrutiny and expectations of police operations have never been greater. Special effort is needed to maintain the public’s confidence, and accreditation sends a positive message that officials are committed to providing services of the highest quality.
The Accreditation Program offers specific standards in the areas of community relations and public information to guarantee that clear lines of communication exist between law enforcement and citizens in the community. In addition, publicity following an agency’s accreditation routinely includes articles in area newspapers, favorable editorials, proclamations, and local television coverage.
Special uniform ribbons and car decals are available to remind citizens that they are being served by an accredited department. The insignias were designed by the Chautauqua County Office of the Sheriff, the Rochester Police Department and the Ulster County Office of the Sheriff.
“The entire village board, on behalf of all of our village residents, would like to congratulate the Ogden Police Department upon receiving accreditation from the State of New York. Providing a better level of service to our residents while saving tax dollars demonstrates both an aggressive initiative and an opportunistic attitude which serves as an envious example to all area public service organizations. We commend those involved, both uniformed and civilian personnel, for bringing distinction to the Town of Ogden, the Village of Spencerport, and especially the Ogden Police Department. “
Village of SpencerportTown Board
THE ACCREDITATION PROCESS
The accreditation process has several distinct stages. The amount of time that an agency should plan on allotting to complete the process varies depending in part upon the amount of work that needs to be accomplished. Another significant variable is the number of hours per week that can be committed to the task of drafting and implementing new procedures. Some agencies have been able to earn accreditation within several months of applying. Significant elements of the accreditation process include:
Officials who wish to participate in the Accreditation Program can obtain an application form from the DCJS Office of Public Safety. The enabling legislation specifies that applications must be signed by both the agency’s chief law enforcement officer and by the municipality’s chief elected officer or a representative of the local governing body. The chief or sheriff will also be asked to sign an “Agency Participation Agreement” which specifies the mutual responsibilities of the agency and Accreditation Council.
The policy development stage is marked by the agency’s efforts to meet applicable program requirements. Documentation must be compiled to demonstrate compliance with those standards which the agency already meets, and new procedures will have to be drafted for those areas which have not yet been addressed. Experienced training technicians from the Office of Public Safety, as well as professionals in accredited agencies that staff can identify, are available for consultation throughout this process.
New policies and procedures must be fully implemented for at least three months before an agency can be considered for accreditation.
Agency officials notify the Office of Public Safety when they believe that all program requirements have been successfully met. An OPS then selects a team of experienced law enforcement practitioners who visit the agency to verify that it qualifies for accreditation status. The chief executive officer has an opportunity to review the list of potential assessors prior to this visit and can disqualify an individual if there is a conflict of interest or other compelling reason.
The officer designated to coordinate the assessment prepares a detailed summary of the team’s findings and recommendations for the Accreditation Council’s review. If accreditation is granted, it will be valid for a period of five years. If accreditation is deferred, the Council will advise the agency what it must do in order to become accredited.
Agencies that meet all program requirements are awarded a mounted Certificate of Accreditation. In addition, the program manager receives a mounted Certificate of Achievement to recognize the role that they had in helping the agency to become accredited. DCJS officials present the plaques at a local ceremony hosted by the participating agency.
Accredited agencies must develop specific mechanisms to monitor and enforce internal compliance with all applicable standards. This is a critical step in the accreditation process because it ensures continuous compliance with agency policies and facilitates the reaccreditation assessment. State rules and regulations require chief executive officers of accredited agencies to file annual reports attesting to their ongoing compliance and identifying any instances of significant noncompliance. The Council reviews these reports very carefully and will provide additional guidance to agencies where appropriate.
Chief executive officers of accredited agencies advise OPS of their wish to be reaccredited by submitting a new application near the end of their five-year period of accreditation. The reaccreditation process is very similar to one described above for an agency’s initial accreditation. Accredited agencies that have regularly updated their program files are in a very strong position to be reaccredited.
ASSISTANCE FOR INTERESTED AGENCIES
The Office of Public Safety will help interested officials implement program standards in any way that it can. The following resources are available at no cost.
Participating agencies receive copies of the program Standards and Compliance Verification Manual and the Program Implementation Guide. The Standards and Compliance Verification Manual contains all of the program standards and offers strategies that agencies may use to demonstrate that they have met all requirements. The Implementation Guide provides an overview of the accreditation process and outlines requirements step-by-step.
Experienced program staff provides assistance upon request and agencies are encouraged to call whenever there are questions. Staff can help interpret and apply applicable standards and can offer valuable insight on how other agencies approached various situations. In addition, staff is available to review draft procedures to determine compliance and discuss ways in which a department’s unique circumstances might affect the way in which a given standard should be implemented.
The accreditation website includes the Standards and Compliance Verification Manual, Implementation Guide, a listing of accredited agencies, as well as other information. The manuals can be downloaded in a PDF format. The website may be accessed at:
Agency personnel often wish to speak directly with officials who have completed the accreditation process. OPS will provide a Roster of Accredited Agencies and Contact Persons to facilitate such linkages. Program Managers and CEO’s are encouraged to use this directory to network with other agencies that have completed the process.
Additionally, OPS has established a mentor program that links accredited agencies with departments that are willing to make a firm commitment to complete the accreditation process. Agencies involved in the mentor program provide guidance and direction on a regular basis to help organize and prioritize the tasks that must be accomplished. Additionally, many of these agencies will provide copies of their policy and procedures manuals as a reference for agency personnel in the drafting their own policies.
OPS also provide a directory of CEO’s who participate in The Law Enforcement Executive’s Accreditation Forum. The Forum is comprised of a group of professional executives from accredited agencies who are willing to share their experiences and knowledge of the accreditation process, and provide guidance to CEO’s who are interested in pursuing accreditation. OPS will provide the directory upon request.
The availability of the aforementioned resources and assistance has made the attainment of accreditation easier. Agency personnel have the ability to reach out to experienced program staff and over one hundred agencies that have achieved accreditation status. The willingness and enthusiasm of these professionals to provide assistance and guidance are due to a shared vision of professionalizing law enforcement in New York State.
The Office of Public Safety offers training for agency program managers. This training focuses on the day-today tasks leading to accreditation and incorporates the most useful insights acquired since the program became operational.
PROGRAM IMPACT AND RECOGNITION
New York was the first state in the country to sponsor a law enforcement accreditation program. Community leaders embraced the initiative from the outset, and the program was immediately endorsed by leading statewide organizations of law enforcement and elected officials. Insurance benefits, enhanced community support, and a greater overall standard of professionalism are just a few of the many tangible benefits that accredited agencies enjoy.
The impact of the accreditation initiative has not gone unnoticed. It received national recognition in 1992 when the Council of State Governments determined that New York’s program “has dealt with a significant problem in an effective and innovative manner and has the potential to be transferred to other states.” The program was one of just eight in the entire country that the Council selected for recognition that year.
More than half of the states have requested information about the program, and law enforcement officials from as far away as California, Virginia, and Kentucky have visited New York to study the program firsthand. Several other states including Oklahoma, Michigan, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island have invited New York officials to meet with representatives of their program planning committees. Several states have used New York’s accreditation structure and resource materials as models when developing their own programs.
In the final analysis, the impact of the accreditation initiative stems from the profound commitment those New York law enforcement executives have made to professionalism and from their desire to provide the best possible services to the communities that they serve. It is anticipated that the Accreditation Program will continue to grow and have an even greater impact in the years ahead.
A CASE STUDY
A police officer from the DeWitt Town Police Department responded to a neighbor dispute regarding a 70 year old man shoveling large amounts of snow in the roadway, creating a hazard. Upon arrival, the officer located the man in the kitchen of his home.
The officer advised the man (who was in good physical condition, about 6’2″ and well over 200 pounds; the officer being 5’10” and 170 pounds) of the complaint and law violation. The man became agitated and struck the officer in the face. The officer called for back-up as he attempted to take the man into custody. After a brief struggle and with the assistance of family members and the back-up unit, the man was arrested. The arrestee continued to be very agitated and combative even after being handcuffed. During the scuffle, the responding officer received minor injuries and was treated at the scene. The man was arrested for creating a hazardous condition, assault and resisting arrest.
A jury trial was held and the man was convicted and sentenced. He appealed the conviction, but it was upheld. Consequently, he filed suit claiming wrongful arrest and excessive use of force. He claimed the back-up officers kicked him and slammed his head onto the trunk of a car. He also claimed the arresting officer struck him. DeWitt Police Department procedures require a full investigation into use of force incidents. For the case report, photographs of the injuries sustained by the responding officer were taken. Upon completion of the investigation, it was determined that the lone officer and back-up officers used only force that was necessary and acted within department policies and procedures and as authorized by law.
The department had policies and procedures and in-service training for use of force, use of deadly physical force on an annual basis as required by and in accordance with the standards established by the accreditation program. The training included defensive tactics practical training at least twice per year. This training included arrest procedures, handcuffing techniques, handling combative prisoners, officer survival techniques, etc. It also involved classroom lecture with law and policy reviews. All training was documented and instructor certificates maintained and up to date. The internal review of the use of force was documented and made a part of the professional standards file. The review included a detailed report to the Chief of Police with copies forwarded to the Defensive Tactics Instructors and Firearms Instructors for training purposes and review for policy compliance.
The law suit proceeded to depositions then to jury trial in Supreme Court, Syracuse, NY. The trial lasted about one week after two or three days of jury selection. The officers involved testified along with the instructors relative to training and departmental policy. The Chief of Police was also subpoenaed by the Plaintiff. When the Chief appeared to testify he brought the departmental policy manual and the Certificate of Accreditation. When he arrived to testify the jury happen to be on lunch break, so the plaintiffs attorney took that opportunity to ask the Chief a few prep questions. He was asked if the agency has policies on arrest procedures and use of force?” The Chief showed him both policies. He was then asked about the certificate. The Chief explained that it is the agency’s Accreditation Certificate that signifies the department is an accredited agency in NYS. After some discussion on the agency’s accreditation status, the attorney turned to the Chiefs lawyer and stated, “I see no reason to call the Chief as a witness.”
The case concluded with the arresting officer’s testimony. The jury returned a verdict of no cause for action and the Judge dismissed all claims against the officer and Department. The Attorney representing the DeWitt Police Department later wrote an article in the New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal (NYMIR) periodical that basically stated that the professionalism of the department and its members, solid policies and procedures and excellent training, as called for by the NYS Law Enforcement Accreditation Program, attributed to the successful conclusion of this case. The verdict was upheld on appeal and the case was closed.
The New York State Law Enforcement Accreditation Program provides a comprehensive blueprint for effective, professional law enforcement. Program staff at the DCJS Office of Public Safety are prepared the make their knowledge, experience and resources available to help your agency become accredited. We encourage you to contact us to obtain an application or additional information.
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services Office of Public Safety Law Enforcement Accreditation Program 4 Tower Place Albany, NY 12203
New York State DIVISION OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE SERVICES Office of Public Safety
Copyright © January 2004 by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. You are hereby granted a non-exclusive license to use the enclosed materials for non-commercial use, and to reproduce, copy and/or distribute these materials for educational purposes. The materials contained in this publication may be included in a non-commercial derivative work with proper attribution to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. These materials may not be posted on a commercial or non-commercial Internet site without the prior written permission of the Division. This non-exclusive license will be governed and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of New York.
The 2004 edition is published by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services Office of Public Safety 4 Tower Place Albany, New York 12203 VERSION APRIL 2004 PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF A