Members of the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA®) arrived Dec. 1 with the intent to evaluate The University of Southern Mississippi Police Department. The four day process consists of evaluating and examining the police department’s management and administration.
The assessors this year who will be conducting the department’s fourth assessment by CALEA are Team Leader-Assistant Chief William Buckbee of Kent State University Police Department and Team Member Lieutenant Darrell Birdett of University of Texas at Austin Police Department.
“The things that CALEA looks at are everything from uniforms to how the agency responds to calls, how it interacts with the public, what kind of equipment it carries, the use of force, management practices, how it handles money, and how it handles evidence, so it covers a very broad spectrum of different management practices,” Buckbee said. The CALEA agency is a professional body that assesses police departments to determine if they are adhering to correct law enforcement practices.
The initial component of the assessment involved mainly paperwork showing proof of how the department reacts, responds and performs. The ending part of the evaluation involves the team interacting with the community for reviews and feedback about UPD.
“Our job is to actually look at the department, look at all the standards that they’re supposed to meet and if they’re doing it,” Buckbee said. “Some of it entails writing policies and they have to follow the policies and prove that they’re following the policies. It’s our job for four days to make sure they’re meeting the standards.”
The process for a department to become accredited begins with contact with CALEA. The department then receives the CALEA standards, and goes through a self-assessment process of its own in preparation for CALEA members’ arrival. UPD volunteered to undergo the Commission’s assessment to attain an accredited status.
“It’s a strict and stringent process to go through, but the police departments that do go through this show a lot of courage and bravery because it takes a lot of courage for a department to invite people from outside its agency to come and look at its department and people and assess them and tell them if they’re doing a good job or not by CALEA standards,” Buckbee said.
According to a news release from the The University of Southern Mississippi’s Office of University Communications, Chief Bob Hopkins of UPD said they are required to comply with 189 standards to keep up its accredited status, mentioning that the accreditation is a public recognition of hard work and dedication of all of the UPD staff.
“There are standards that govern high risk activities such as the pursuit of motor vehicles, the use of force, provision of protection of people’s constitutional rights, for example, some are more administrative, and many dealing with the control of property and evidence,” said Captain Charles Chandler.
An informational session for agency personnel and citizens was held Dec. 2 in the R.C. Cook Union for public feedback about UPD after the second day of evaluation.
“I think UPD has done very well. My general impression is that they’re very professional and I get a sense that they have a sense of ownership over the university and a sense of devotion to the faculty and staff here which as an assessor for the university police department, is what I’m looking for,” Buckbee said.
The CALEA representatives will have completed their evaluation of the department by Dec. 4 before completing a review of the department and communicating with the Commission to decide if the police department will gain accredited status. The department receives an award of accredited status which is valid for three years.
“It is our policy to continue to maintain our accredited status,” Chandler said.
While Accreditation status lasts for three years, the police agency is required to submit yearly reports of proof of compliance with the CALEA standards.