The Tupelo Police Department is seeking recognition through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), and a portion of that relies on community members telling accreditors what the department needs to improve on and where it excels.
To receive CALEA accreditation, the unit must be in compliance with 123 professional standards.
CALEA representatives request that community members send written comments to the Mississippi Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission, Attention: Accreditation Alliance Manager at 3750 I-55 North Frontage Road, Jackson, MS 39211. Anyone can go to calea.org to read more about the accreditation standards.
Tupelo Police Chief Tony Carleton said the self-imposed assessment process will increase the accountability of the department and trust of community members and organizations that work with the department.
“Assessors will come in next month and do a ride-along program with our officers to make sure our policies meet their 123 standard policies and from there we will build them as needed,” Carleton said. “It shows that our agency is running in a more professional manner and not by a whim, but under guidelines.”
The goal of CALEA’s standards is to create accountability within the agency, reduce risk and liability, strengthen a department’s defense against civil lawsuits and increase community advocacy.
The policies deal with everything from departmental organization to evidence collection.
Carleton said when his officers are presenting a case before a judge, the policies and procedures implemented through the accreditation will not only ensure the aspects of the case – investigation, evidence gathering, arrest and charging – were done properly, but also the trust in the officers and department will be greater.
“We want to make sure things are done professionally and it holds us accountable,” he said. “Once we are accredited I want to send the policies to the judges and attorneys we work with so they know how we operate and can give us input.”
Carleton said he expects to reach accreditation by the beginning of 2013.
Currently, 17 Mississippi law enforcement agencies are CALEA-accredited and 12 are working toward accreditation.