Accreditation is a recognition of efforts at professionalism.
The idea of police agency accreditation began around 1979, and today, over 600 police departments are accredited because they are in compliance with 436 CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc.) standards. CALEA is a non-profit organization that started out as an innovative idea conceived by the IACP and funded by a LEAA grant. The CALEA commission is a unique blend of civilians (university professors, business leaders, politicians) and professionals appointed by the executive boards of IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police), NOBLE (National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives), NSA (National Sheriffs Association), and PERF (Police Executive Research Forum).
In 1993, Florida Statute 943.125 encouraged the Florida Sheriffs Association and the Florida Police Chiefs Association to create an independent and voluntary law enforcement accreditation program. Today, over 100 law enforcement agencies of all sizes and locations area CFA Accredited in Florida with many of those also recognized by CALEA.
The Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation, Inc. (CFA) was formed, comprised of four sheriffs, four chiefs, and one representative each from the Association of Counties, the League of Cities, and the Judiciary. The Commission meets quarterly to oversee the accreditation program and to officially accredit agencies that have passed the rigorous review process. Representatives from these Associations developed a process for accreditation which required compliance with more than 250 professional standards designed specifically for Florida law enforcement agencies. (The CFA's 250 standards cover all but 6 of the mandatory CALEA standards.)
Once an agency applies for accreditation, they receive a copy of the standards and must begin a self-assessment study. This internal audit may take a year or more to complete; it is time-consuming and labor-intensive. Policies, procedures, and directives must all be in place and appropriate for an agency of its size. CALEA and CFA standards also specify certain kinds of equipment that the agency may have to purchase. Recruitment, selection, training, and termination of personnel are all areas of special importance. Then, once the agency is ready, an assessment team of CALEA and CFA assessors make a site visit to observe operations, collect and read all the agency's documentation, and verify compliance with the standards. Then, the whole process repeats itself every three (3) years.
Benefits of Accreditation:
- Nationwide recognition of desire for professional excellence
- Increase community understanding and support
- Elevation of employee confidence, esprit de corps
- Increase confidence in agency by politicians & government officials
- “state of the art” phrase can be used about the agency
- Clearly articulated policies and procedures manuals
- Decreases in insurance premiums
- Deterrence of liability litigation, lawsuits by citizens
- Improved communication with other community agencies
- Access to information about modern law enforcement