By Police Chief Edward Santiago
(Monday, January 2, 2023) – A member of the community (and good friend) asked me a simple question, “what is police accreditation?” It was then I knew that it needed to be explained to the community. The community has been served since 1998 by a group of dedicated and well trained officers from various backgrounds. These officers have always strived to be professional and compassionate. How does the police department improve upon such a dedicated workforce? The answer – accreditation.
This is a major project that will take several years to complete, but will be the most worthwhile investment the agency has ever made. To obtain accredited status is a significant accomplishment that we will achieve. Read on to better understand the meaning of police accreditation and why it is needed.
The Florida Legislature enacted Florida State Statute 943.125, which provided the framework for the accreditation of public safety agencies to include law enforcement. Essentially it defines the purpose of accreditation, who will manage the process, and what aspects of law enforcement need to be addressed.
The purpose of law enforcement accreditation per state statute is to “maximize the capability of law enforcement agencies to enforce the law and control criminal activities.” This is accomplished by voluntarily adopting standards that are designed to enhance the professionalism of the agency. It was important to the Legislature that this process was managed by an independent entity. It could not be a law enforcement agency who is responsible for the oversight and administration of the accreditation of agencies. The Legislature also decided the accreditation program must address at a minimum the following:
- Vehicle pursuits
- Seizure and forfeiture of contraband articles
- Recording and processing citizen complaints
- Use of force
- Traffic stops
- Handling natural and man-made disasters
- Special operations
- Prisoner transfer
- Collection and preservation of evidence
- Recruitment and selection
- Officer training
- Performance standards
- Law enforcement disciplinary procedures and rights
- Use of criminal investigative funds
- Access to and use of personal identification information
Once the standards are adopted by the agency’s Chief Executive, they become a guide for officers. It gives them direction, which enhances their confidence and effectiveness. These standards are always available electronically to the officers. It provides clear and concise guidance on various issues they may encounter while working.
If I were reading this article, the next question I would ask is how close is the Sunny Isles Beach Police Department to achieving accredited status? Fair question. I was made your Chief of Police on April 4, 2022. At the May 2022 Commission Meeting I brought your elected officials an agreement with Doug Robertson, an accreditation manager with 32 years of accreditation experience, to achieve accredited status for our agency. He is also a former Chief of Police and current accreditation manager of a local agency with a stellar reputation. I thought it was important to have an outside manager look at our practices and enhance them to conform with accreditation standards. The agreement provided a blueprint on how to achieve accreditation. His contract is financed through forfeited funds acquired from drug investigations from our detached detectives. This contract is not an added expense for taxpayers.
The first step was to sign a formal agreement with the accrediting agency, the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation. I signed the agreement on June 1, 2022, and Mr. Robertson went to work. Since signing the agreement, we are 97% complete with policy development and 66% complete with our internal review of the polices. Once the policies are completed and conform to the accreditation standards, we will begin to document compliance with the standards. Moving forward, we have a goal of scheduling a “mock assessment” of our agency in August 2023. During this mock assessment, assessors will come to the agency and evaluate our revamped policies and practices to determine if they will pass a formal assessment. The next goal would be to have the formal on-site assessment in September 2023. Once this is complete, we will be presented to the accrediting entity in hopes of becoming formally accredited.
I hope this explains the importance of police accreditation. As your Chief of Police, I will do everything I can to continue to offer the community a well-trained and professional police force. Accreditation will just support and optimize the service you have been accustomed to.