The Smithfield Police Department is seeking national accreditation, which it could earn as soon as next year.
Although the department has never been accredited before, Police Chief Michael Scott said he has pursued it since arriving in Smithfield in 2009.
The department is seeking advanced accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, or CALEA, an international organization that Scott has worked with before. Currently in the first step of self-assessment, the department will complete a five-step process in order to earn accreditation.
Accreditation not only bolsters professionalism, efficiency and comprehensive standards but also add insurance benefits while decreasing liability in civil litigation.
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“It’s important to us to have a review of what we do and how we do it for every single thing we do, and the only way to do that was through the accreditation,” Scott said. “The goal was for the Smithfield Police Department to be as professional as we can be and be able to form the professional type of law enforcement that the community deserves.”
CALEA formed in 1983 as a joint effort by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the National Sheriffs’ Association and the Police Executive Research Forum.
Currently in North Carolina, only 12 police departments similar in size to Smithfield’s hold accreditation, including the Clayton Police Department. Three others, including the Knightdale Police Department, are in the middle of self-assessment.
“It’s a long process,” Scott said. “If it was easy, everyone would do it.”
In October, out-of-state officers with CALEA will spend four days in Smithfield reviewing police policies and procedures. One reason the process is lengthy is because the department will need to justify all of its policies and practices. The process will include a hearing on the the public’s interactions with the department.
Since enrolling in CALEA three years ago, the Smithfield Police Department has been reviewing its policies and adding training, specifically in its response to domestic violence.
Once accredited, the department will have to renew every three years.
“It is a morale issue,” said Scott. “It shows that these (officers) have been doing it the right way, that the public can have confidence in them, that we have confidence in them and that the city has confidence in them.”