The Spokane Valley Police Department was recently awarded reaccreditation by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, and still remains the first and only contract law enforcement agency in Washington State to earn that honor.
The reaccreditation process occurs every four years to ensure the agency is operating under best practice and policies. This is the first reaccreditation for the Spokane Valley Police Department following its initial accreditation in 2011.
The purpose of law-enforcement agency accreditation is to professionalize the law enforcement industry by providing a review process for agencies to be certified as operating under industry best practices and standards, said Deputy Mark Gregory, police spokesman.
In 1976, WASPC was directed by the Washington State Legislature to develop standards and goals for Washington State Law Enforcement. WASPC has maintained an operational accreditation program since that time.
The current accreditation program was created in 2007 and is overseen by the Professional Services Committee, Accreditation Commission, and Board of Directors. The committee is responsible for maintaining accreditation standards. The commission is responsible for reviewing accreditation on-site reports and making recommendations to the board of directors. The board of directors is responsible for conferring accreditation.
Benefits of accreditation include:
- To increase public confidence in the agency
- To increase credibility
- To provide a systemized agency self-assessment
- To broaden perspectives
- To intensify administrative and operational effectiveness
- To ensure recruitment, selection, and promotion processes are fair and equitable
- To strengthen understanding of agency policies and procedures by agency personnel
- To improve agency morale and pride
- To decrease susceptibility to litigation and costly civil court settlements
- To potentially reduce liability insurance costs
- To provide state and local recognition of professional competence
In the self-assessment phase, agencies assess their ability to meet all WASPC Accreditation standards addressing major law enforcement areas as established by the Association's Accreditation Committee. Major areas of assessment include emphasis on:
- Goals and Objectives
- Role and Authority
- Use of Force
- Management, Staffing, Organization and Utilization of Personnel
- Records Management
- Information Technology
- Unusual Occurrences
- Health and Safety
- Fiscal Management
- Recruitment and Selection
- Performance Evaluation
- Code of Conduct
- Internal Affairs
- Patrol Function
- Investigative Function
- Evidence and Property Control Function
- Prisoner Security
During the on-site assessment and evaluation phase, the on-site assessment team, a group of assessors from law enforcement agencies across Washington state, confirms the agency's ability to meet the WASPC accreditation standards.
The assessors review agency files for policies and procedures as well as documentation (proofs) showing the agency is operating under the direction of those policies and procedures. Assessors also interview agency members to gather additional information.
As part of the WASPC on-site process, assessors are encouraged to note areas where improvement can be made.
Suggestions for improvement are compiled in the final on-site report. If an agency is unable to meet an accreditation standard at the time of the on-site assessment, a 60-day extension may be requested for the agency to make appropriate changes and submit proof to the WASPC director of Professional Services.
Noncompliance issues must be reconciled to the satisfaction of the director of Professional Services before the agency's presentation to the Accreditation Commission. An agency must resolve non-compliance issues at least 30 days prior to the Commission meeting at which the Commission considers the agency's accreditation.
In the Accreditation Commission review phase, the WASPC Director of Professional Services or the on-site review team leader, the chief administrator of the agency seeking accreditation, and the departmental accreditation manager may appear before the Accreditation Commission for determination if they have met the standards and the on-site review team has done a complete job. The Accreditation Commission forwards its recommendations to the WASPC board of directors for final consideration.
In the executive board review phase, the WASPC Executive Board reviews the recommendations by the Accreditation Commission and issues a final decision.
During the reaccreditation phase, agencies repeat the entire process. The reaccreditation process is significantly less cumbersome if agencies institutionalize the accreditation philosophy and keep agency policies, procedures and records up to date. To maintain accreditation, agencies must be reaccredited every four years.
Since the Spokane Valley Police Department is a contract agency of the already accredited Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, it could have been considered already accredited. Spokane Valley Police Chief Rick Van Leuven said, “I wanted to take the extra step of vetting the department on its own merits to show citizens and the Spokane Valley City Council, we’re going above and beyond.”
Van Leuven noted becoming accredited ensures the department’s policies are up-to-date and can reduce liability and insurance costs. “We are a more competent, professional agency for doing so. It really should increase the public confidence in our agency.”
The Spokane Police Department provides evidence and records management for the Spokane Valley Police Department and participated in the accreditation process.
Van Leuven said, “They were exceptionally helpful to us. There was zero non-compliance in both those areas. That doesn’t happen very often.”