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CALEA Update Magazine | Issue 101

Accreditation for Small Law Enforcement Agencies

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The authors [Gary Cordner, Professor, Kutztown University (PA) Department of Criminal Justice and CALEA Commissioner and Roy Gordon (Deceased), who was then Chief of Police, Chevy Chase Village (MD) Police Department] were keenly interested in finding ways to make CALEA Law Enforcement Accreditation and Recognition more feasible and attractive for small law enforcement agencies, particularly in the United States. Gary Cordner is a professor, CALEA Commissioner, and a former police chief in St. Michaels, Maryland, at a time when that agency had five police employees. Roy Gordon died in January 2011; he was retired from the Montgomery County (MD) Police Department, and was at the time of his death, the chief of the Chevy Chase Village Police Department, an agency with 17 employees that has been CALEA Law Enforcement Accredited since 1998. [Editorial Note: The biographical information has been updated, and the CALEA Recognition Program is no longer available. December 2011]

CALEA for Small Agencies 
The vast majority of law enforcement agencies in the United States are small. According to the most recent census conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) (Reaves, 2007), 50% of the 17,876 state and local law enforcement agencies in the country have 0-9 full-time sworn personnel, while 74% have 24 or fewer full-time sworn officers. Thus, in the United States there are about 9,000 law enforcement agencies with fewer than 10 full-time sworn, and over 13,000 with fewer than 25 sworn.

Unfortunately, hardly any of these small agencies are CALEA accredited or recognized. CALEA had only 28 accredited A-size law enforcement agencies as of July 31, 2009, with another 14 in recognition status (CALEA, 2009). There were another 38 A-size agencies in the CALEA process, working toward either recognition or accreditation.

CALEA uses slightly different size categories than BJS – CALEA A-size agencies are those with 1-24 total personnel, including sworn and non-sworn. Conservatively, based on the BJS census data, there are about 10,000-12,000 U.S. law enforcement agencies in the Category A-size range. This means that less than 1% of all the A-size law enforcement agencies in the United States are engaged with CALEA, and less than one-half of one percent has achieved either recognition or accreditation. Any way you look at those figures, they are terrible. Less than 100 A-size agencies are CALEA participants, while more than 9,900 (possibly more than 11,900) are not.

How does this stack up with CALEA’s “success rate” with larger agencies? Listed below are estimates of CALEA’s “market penetration” for each of its four law enforcement agency size categories (again, these are estimates because CALEA and BJS size categories do not match up exactly, and CALEA counts all personnel, not just sworn).

                        A-size (1-24 personnel)        -           <1%

                        B-size (25-74)                       -           20%

                        C-size (75-299)                     -           33%

                        D-size (300+)                        -           50%

 What these figures graphically demonstrate is that CALEA has failed to attract participation by small agencies. The extent to which medium-sized and larger agencies have been attracted to CALEA Accreditation is fairly respectable, but the same cannot be said for small agencies. This is an especially sad situation, of course, since small law enforcement agencies are precisely the ones most in need of professional benchmarks and external, objective review designed to help them make sure (and help them prove to their communities and political leaders) that they are operating according to contemporary operational and administrative standards.

The Few, the Proud
Where are the few CALEA accredited and recognized A-size law enforcement agencies located? If we look at the 28 accredited A-size agencies, they are found in 15 states (see Table 1) – in other words, 35 states do not have a single one. If we broaden the criteria to also include CALEA recognized agencies, five additional states make the list – leaving 30 states, still a majority, without a single A-sized agency that is either CALEA accredited or recognized. When we broaden the criteria even further, adding A-size agencies that are in the self-assessment process for recognition or accreditation, there still remain 26 states, more than half of all the states, without any A-size law enforcement agencies engaged with CALEA in any way.

*** See Table 1 Below ***

Only six states have more than one CALEA accredited A-size law enforcement agency – Ohio (8 agencies), Missouri (3), and then Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Virginia (2 each). If both accredited and recognized agencies are counted, the leading A-size states are Ohio (9 agencies) and Illinois (4), followed by Maryland, Michigan, and Missouri (3 each). This accounting identifies a Midwest cluster of states with the most accredited/recognized small agencies –Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Missouri. If all the A-sized agencies involved with CALEA are considered, including those in self-assessment, then a Mid-South cluster (Virginia, North Carolina) can be identified as well as a Mid-Atlantic cluster (Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey) and a New England cluster (New Hampshire and Maine).

Even in these states the level of CALEA participation by small agencies is miniscule. Suppose, for example, that every other state matched Ohio’s accomplishment with eight accredited/recognized A-size agencies – that would generate 400 such agencies nationwide, still less than 5% of all A-size law enforcement agencies in the country.

Nonetheless, the geographic clustering of agencies is interesting and revealing – especially where CALEA A-size agencies are not found. Of the 28 accredited A-size law enforcement agencies, only four are located west of the Mississippi (see Figure 1). The Southwest region has one of these agencies (in Texas), while the West, Northwest, and Mountain West have none at all. In fact, among the larger group of 80 A-size agencies that are CALEA accredited, recognized, or in-process, not a single agency is located in the vast part of the country represented by the West, Northwest, and Mountain West regions.

Long-Timers
CALEA awarded its first law enforcement accreditations in 1984. One of the agencies in the very first cohort was Mt. Dora, Florida, an A-size agency. That agency did not remain in the CALEA program, but two of the currently accredited A-size law enforcement agencies achieved their first awards in 1990 – the Alexandria (VA) Sheriff’s Office and the Evendale (OH) Police Department. These two agencies will enter their 20th year with CALEA soon. At least 14 other A-size agencies have been in CALEA for 10 or more years. Clearly, for a few small agencies, CALEA Accreditation has not only been achievable, but also sustainable. But why has it attracted so few small agencies?

Challenges for Small Agencies
Needless to say, a small law enforcement agency faces a tough challenge if it aspires to CALEA Accreditation or Recognition, for a variety of reasons: costs/budgetary restrictions, personnel, etc. These challenges can be met and overcome by the commitment of the CEO and participatory input from all personnel in the organization, but it is harder in some ways for a small agency, compared to a larger one. A small agency usually cannot assign one or two people full-time to the accreditation effort. In the smallest agencies, there often is no “staff” other than the chief and some patrol officers. Also, the direct costs associated with CALEA fees, attendance at CALEA conferences, and on-site assessment expenses represent a big budget item in a small agency.

On the positive side, CALEA grants are available to assist small agencies, and many agencies utilize asset forfeiture funds and other nontraditional revenue sources. In addition, insurance providers in some states offer to pay accreditation fees for their client agencies. The expertise of CALEA program managers and staff coupled with training opportunities are available to all agencies involved with CALEA Accreditation or Recognition. The accreditation manager duties in a small agency can be handled by a sworn officer or a civilian (or shared) and usually are additional duties as assigned, not a full time position. Small accredited agencies usually possess an “esprit de corps” and “have done so much with so little for so long” that they believe “we can do anything with nothing at all.”

One Small Agency’s Experience
When the decision was made in Chevy Chase Village to pursue CALEA Accreditation in April 1996, the challenge was not simply to achieve accredited status, but also to keep pace with other agencies in Montgomery County, Maryland, where the County Police, Sheriff Department (D-size agencies), and three municipal agencies (B-size) were already accredited. Chevy Chase Village Police received accreditation in August 1998 and will be presented for its fourth reaccreditation in August 2010.

Achieving accreditation for a small agency involves all its members, both sworn and non-sworn. Our ultimate goal is to become the first A-size CALEA Flagship agency in Maryland. Some of the benefits of accreditation for our agency are: maintenance of current policies with annual review; a first class evidence/property room; additional training for personnel; and reduction in insurance costs. For Chevy Chase Village Police, CALEA is not just a program; it is a philosophy and a process for the way we conduct business and holds us accountable to the community. We think about it this way: a small agency awarded accreditation status – remarkable; maintaining that status – priceless.

Getting More Small Agencies on Board
CALEA already has several mechanisms in place to assist small law enforcement agencies, including a well-maintained website that highlights program standards, benefits, eligibility, cost, process and enrollment (see www.calea.org). Besides these fundamentals, a few specific features of the CALEA program and family are particularly helpful for small agencies:

  • Police Accreditation Coalitions (PACs) are an important source of assistance and encouragement for any agency going through the accreditation process, including small agencies. PACs generally meet monthly or at least quarterly, provide training opportunities, resolve CALEA issues, provide guidance and networking to new accreditation managers, and conduct mock assessments for agencies within the PAC.
  • CALEA Law Enforcement Accreditation allows agencies to “n/a” standards if the agency simply does not provide that function, plus all standards are coded to indicate whether they are “M” (mandatory) or “O” (other than mandatory) by size category. Agencies are required to meet all “M” standards that are applicable by size and function, and at least 80% of “O” standards that are applicable by size and function. For small agencies, many more standards are coded “O” compared to large agencies. The combined effect of “n/a” and “O” standards is that small agencies generally have to comply with significantly fewer than the 463 standards in order to achieve accredited status.
  • CALEA Recognition is an alternative to accreditation for A-size agencies. (Any size agency may elect to pursue recognition as their first step with CALEA, but only A-size agencies can remain in the recognition program after the first three-year award period.) This program is based on a subset of the 463 standards in the accreditation program – it specifies 112 standards that address (1) life, health and safety issues, (2) critical legal issues, and (3) conditions that can reduce risk and high liability exposure.
  • CALEA Alliance programs offer small agencies another route to achieve recognition in some states. CALEA has entered into Alliance partnerships with state entities in Indiana, Mississippi, and New Jersey as a means of reducing costs for small agencies and keeping some of the compliance oversight closer to home.
  • The CALEA Agency Support Fund (CASF) provides grants to eligible agencies (50 or fewer authorized full-time personnel seeking law enforcement, communications, or training academy accreditation for the first time) to help offset the direct costs of accreditation. These grants cover accreditation fees and the CACE software program.           

In addition to these established programs and options for small agencies, several additional ideas are under discussion now at CALEA. These include (1) creating a small-agency PAC, (2) establishing an e-mail list-serve or discussion forum specifically for information sharing among small agencies working on recognition and/or accreditation, (3) scheduling a regular roundtable session during CALEA conferences to facilitate information sharing among small agencies, (4) setting up a mentor program so that small-agency chiefs and sheriffs can learn from someone who has already taken a small agency through the CALEA process, and (5) finding other ways to build up a critical mass of small agencies state-by-state. In this respect, Ohio serves as the model. It has enough small agencies in CALEA (as well as larger ones) that just about any agency in the state can find several other similar agencies to learn from, in order to avoid having to reinvent the wheel. When that situation is characteristic of many states, and not just Ohio, then CALEA Accreditation for small agencies might be on the verge of taking off. Today, unfortunately, it is still at the starting line.

Moving Forward
If you have any reactions or suggestions, a desire to help, or specific ideas about how CALEA could make accreditation more attractive and realistic for small agencies, please send a note or button-hole Commissioner Cordner at a CALEA Conference: Gary Cordner: cordner@kutztown.edu.

References

CALEA. (2009) Client Agency Database.

On-line at: http://www.calea.org/agcysearch/agencysearch.cfm

Reaves, Brian A. (2007) Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies, 2004. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Assistance.

On-line at: http://www.ojp.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/csllea04.pdf


Table 1. CALEA A-Size Law Enforcement Agencies by State

(as of July 31, 2009).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

 

 

In-

State

Number

Accredited

Recognized

Process

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alabama

2

1

 

1

Arkansas

1

 

 

1

Colorado

1

 

 

1

Connecticut

2

1

 

1

Delaware

2

1

 

1

Florida

1

 

1

 

Illinois

5

1

3

1

Iowa

1

1

 

 

Kentucky

1

 

 

1

Louisiana

2

 

1

1

Maine

2

 

 

2

Maryland

6

2

1

3

Michigan

4

2

1

1

Missouri

3

3

 

 

New Hampshire

6

1

1

4

New Jersey

3

 

2

1

North Carolina

7

1

1

5

Ohio

16

8

1

7

Pennsylvania

5

2

 

3

South Carolina

2

1

 

1

South Dakota

1

 

1

 

Tennessee

1

 

1

 

Texas

4

1

 

3

Virginia

2

2

 

 

TOTAL

80

28

14

38

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Author
Gary Cordner, Professor and CALEA Commissioner
Kutztown University (PA) Department of Criminal Justice
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