Police Departments across the country are under constant scrutiny by elected officials, the media and the public to reduce crime, control costs, engage the public, always be accessible and, most important, always be courteous and professional. Police departments that demonstrate excellence in these areas can achieve accreditation by The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). The purpose of CALEA is to help law enforcement agencies focus on professional standards, the development of internal policies and procedures that support these standards, continual improvement and increased community advocacy and support. This independent credentialing agency has been around since 1979 and affects the professional lives of approximately 25 percent of state and local law enforcement personnel in the country.
In my experience as a city manager, local police departments which participate in the CALEA accreditation process and receive accreditation are more likely to:
- Have and support a culture of excellence in law enforcement professionalism
- Be managed better
- Perform better in day to day operations and crises
- Have more credibility and support from the public.
CALEA has recently introduced a tiered system of accreditation with the top tier being the Gold Standard. This level of accreditation has more rigorous requirements for continuous improvement of law enforcement agencies.
One of the most important additional requirements is to demonstrate excellence in the ability to collect, review, and analyze data to make fact-based management decisions and improve public safety. The first North Carolina police agency to receive the Gold Standard is in a community which, several years ago, committed to standardizing on the SAS platform. It allows the organization to access data from 15 or so application systems, as well as spreadsheets, from individual personal computers. The organization can track costs, operational trends, performance of programs and personnel, and perform analytics on causal relationships. The department integrates all data into weekly, monthly and annual reports to give a comprehensive picture of crime and operations in the community. Leadership can make resource allocation decisions based on facts, not perception. One of the major department initiatives was a program to reduce crime in apartment complexes. The data platform integrated all relevant data and visualized the program’s impact on crime reduction in apartment complexes across town. According to managers in the accreditation process, the capabilities of the SAS platform key to this city receiving the first Gold Standard Accreditation form CALEA in the state of North Carolina.