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Columbia Police Department working on international accreditation

For the first time in the agency’s history, the Columbia Police Department is applying for accreditation.

“It’s a three year process,” Sgt. Robert Dochler, who is managing the project, said. “We’re six months into it. We have until September of 2019 to schedule our first on-site visit from the assessors and achieve accreditation.”

The department is working to become accredited from CALEA, the Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. It’s an internationally recognized group with agencies from around the world.

“Accreditation basically sets standards that are internationally known for how law enforcement should operate,” Dochler said. “They’re always based on the best practices and changing, the way things change in our profession.”

Once an agency makes accreditation, they must maintain that status and keep up with any changing policies or standards.

“So, one way it helps CPD, it will make sure our policies and the way we’re operating on a daily basis is up to those standards, because if it’s not, those assessors will not pass us,” Dochler said.

CPD has been trying to improve relationships between officers and members of the community.

They’ve recently installed a Community Outreach Unit that targets specific neighborhoods and gives officers the opportunity to become more familiar with residents.

A report from the Attorney General also suggested Columbia officers may be racially profiling, an issue the department is working hard to address.

Dochler believes becoming accredited may help build confidence from the community.

“It also goes toward giving confidence toward the community knowing our police department adheres to nationally recognized standards and helps build confidence there as well.”

A recent anonymous survey of Columbia officers also revealed low morale throughout the department.

“Internally, I think it will be good for all of us officers to know exactly what is expected and we are sticking to that, and everyone is on the same page, and not only do our policies say one things but what we’re doing also matches what our policy says. That’s very important,” Dochler said.

CPD said they’re working on accreditation with CALEA because of it’s high standards and recognizable name.

“It’s internationally known as the gold standard,” Dochler said. “There are other accrediting bodies on the state level. We’re going for CALEA.”

The University of Missouri Police Department has been accredited with CALEA since March of 2001.

“The community should look at it as it’s making sure your police agency is doing the latest, greatest practices and trying to do the best you can,” Maj. Brian Weimer, with MUPD, said. “You get a lot of information (on) standards on community interaction and those type of things. It’s not telling you how you have to do it, just making sure you are covering it.”

Weimer further explained what the standards cover and how agencies follow them.

“They cover everything from use of force to pursuits to fiscal to record keeping, booking of individuals, training. It’s a wide variety,” Weimer said. “They make sure you’re forward thinking. So, this group is getting together to make sure you’re covering those things and looking toward those things, so that you’re keeping up with current trends and best practices.”

After the three-year application process, CALEA does annual spot checks with agencies as well as a full assessment every fourth year, where the group will send a team to an agency for an on-site check.

“We’re in the self assessment stage,” Dochler said. “We go through the individual standards and see, Are we 100 percent compliant? Are we 75 percent compliant? Do we need to add this? It’s a painstaking process. Policy manuals are big, and the standards manual is large. But it’s just like, how do you eat the elephant? One bite at a time. We’ll get there.”

CALEA has multiple tiers an agency can be in. The first tier includes nearly 200 standards an agency needs to meet. The next level has about 400 standards for an agency to meet. But Weimer said the number can actually be much higher.

“With inside those standards, there’s bullets and such, too, so you’re meeting over 1,100 things if you go through it,” Weimer said. “There’s certain things that are not applicable to us, because we don’t have a jail. We don’t have a court security. So agencies have to look at that. Some of them may be non-applicable to your agency, but you have to be able to show that and put that in there.”

The Missouri State Highway Patrol is also CALEA accredited.

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