The Warwick Police Department is continuing a tradition it started in 1997, being one of the first nationally accredited departments in Rhode Island. The department is not only gearing up for re-accreditation, but also taking the lead in establishing a statewide police accreditation program.
The re-accreditation process begins Sunday, Aug. 5, when a team of assessors from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA) arrives and begins an on-site assessment. During their visit, they will examine all aspects of the agency’s policies and procedures, management, operations and support services.
According to Mayor Scott Avedisian, national accreditation is about creating a plan for the future. “It’s one thing for us to believe we’re doing the right thing and another for a team to come and tell us what we’re doing right and what we need to work on,” said Avedisian. “It gives us a plan of what to work on for the next three years.”
Besides helping define future plans, being accredited can also save the department time and money. “It is very important to get re-accredited. It shows that we’re meeting all the benchmarks and give us better credibility, which reduces risk for frivolous lawsuits,” said Avedisian.
Warwick Chief Col. Stephen McCartney, along with the R.I. Police Chief Association (RIPCA) wants to make accreditation possible for those departments that are unable to afford national accreditation.
“State accreditation is important primarily because not all of the state has the ability to get involved in national accreditation because of cost and resources and facilities,” said McCartney.
McCartney said that CALEA accreditation could range between $10,000 to $12,000 during the three-year accreditation period. For some departments, the price is just too high, which is one reason state accreditation is important.
“There will be a yearly subscription of dues that each department will pay and we’re trying to peg it at a really reasonable amount,” said RIPCA President Anthony M. Pesare, chief of the Middletown Department. "We understand that CALEA is rather expensive so we’re trying to offer a program that is just as rigid with standards but is affordable for local cities and towns.”
According to Pesare, low cost is only one benefit of state accreditation, as it will also create a level of standard. “I think it’s important because it will allow every city and town police department to have uniform standards based on nationally accepted policies and procedures, which are accepted ways of conducting police department activities,” he said.
Thirty-three of Rhode Island’s 38 police departments have already indicated that they will participate in state accreditation, which McCartney hopes will be up and running in the next year or two.
The state accreditation process is a program that RIPCA has decided to implement. There is currently a board of directors, which is made up of R.I. police chiefs, and a commission of which Col. McCartney is president.
The Board of Directors is working to try to create a state accreditation process similar to those in Connecticut and Massachusetts. They have finished the legal aspects of creating a state accreditation process and are on to the next step, the hiring of a full-time program coordinator.
“The real linchpin is to get a full-time program coordinator selected by next month,” said McCartney. “When they come, they’ll really be able to set a timeline and then at that point in time, things will move faster. We’ve been at this since the beginning of the year, but we don’t have [the] ability to devote all our time since we’re all police chiefs who work full-time.”
As part of the department’s national accreditation on-site assessment, agency employees and members of the community are invited to offer comments at a public information session to be held on Tuesday, Aug. 7, beginning at 5 p.m. The session will be held at the Warwick Police Department, Community Room, 99 Veterans Memorial Drive, Warwick.
If, for some reason, individuals cannot speak at the public information session but would still like to provide comments to the assessment team, they may do so by telephone. The public may call 468-4328 on Monday, Aug. 6 between the hours of 3 and 5 p.m.