CALEA Gold Standard Assessment
In 2011, CALEA® introduced a new methodology for assessing agencies seeking reaccreditation in any of its programs. Known as the Gold Standard Assessment (GSA), this voluntary assessment format focuses primarily on processes and outcomes associated with standards specific to agency policies. In short, it works to measure the impact of accreditation as opposed to simply confirming compliance through a file-by-file review.
In addition to strong organizational health and an absence of issues that detract from the professionalism of the agency, the following general criteria must be met before an agency may be considered to participate in the GSA process:
- Must have two previous accreditation awards at the level of accreditation currently being sought.
- Must not have had compliance issues in most recent assessment.
- Must not have had process management issues in most recent assessment.
- Must not currently be under a consent decree or memorandum of understanding.
- Must not be exercising agency requested assessment extension option for current process.
- Must have submitted all three Agency Status Reports as required and on time.
Agencies must also notify in writing their assigned CALEA Regional Program Manager of their intent to participate. This request must be provided by the chief executive officer of the respective agency and must be provided not less than four months prior to the assessment. Staff will review all requests and contact agencies as soon as possible regarding approvals.
Regardless of the type of assessment conducted (GSA or Traditional), agencies must maintain contemporary files for each CALEA standard. Assessors will review every standard in the traditional manner where CALEA has amended or added a standard since the last assessment. And, a traditional review of every file will occur for standards that have been impacted by an agency change in policy or practice. This will ensure every standard has been reviewed for policy compliance by an assessment team, thereby maintaining the integrity of the process. Specific files will be identified by the CALEA Assessment Manager for off-site review; however, agencies participating in the GSA will generally have no other files reviewed in the traditional format and should not expect or request files to be reviewed in the traditional format otherwise. Once the off-site file review is completed, standards compliance is verified through interviews and observations in the normal work environment where the specific activities are expected to occur.
Because the new assessment model focuses on processes and outcomes, a guide has been developed to assist agencies and assessors in conducting these types of assessments. This guide, referred to as the Review, Process and Outcomes Guide (RPOG) can be found on the CALEA website under the Clients tab's Forms and Documents section. It should not be considered a checklist, as assessors may review issues outside the scope of this document; however, the RPOG does provide insight into the types of issue that will be reviewed. And, it can serve as a preparation tool for client agencies as they prepare for the GSA.
The GSA also requires more preliminary involvement by the agency representatives and the chief executive officer. This includes pre-assessment conference calls with assessors and CALEA staff to identify critical issues that will be reviewed during the assessment process. This communication is critical to the effectiveness of the process, as it attempts to focus on those issues the agency and staff have identified as currently affecting the agency and its operations. The intent is to create a process that is attentive to matters that are important to the agency based on the current environment and critical to CALEA.
The strength of the process comes from the flexibility in issues reviewed and allowing for more in-depth reviews of issues. Assessment reports go beyond simple compliance and identify areas for future improvement, weaknesses that could impact the agency’s risk levels, areas of exceptional organizational strength, and findings that could present new opportunities. During the GSA, many more staff members are interviewed and it works to determine the tenor of the agency on critical matters. It provides insights into opportunities for process improvements and it identifies areas where data is effectively or ineffectively being used to support operational or administrative activities. In short, the GSA reviews key issues for the agency and identifies strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threat as it relates to standards-based issues.
Agencies that have participated in the GSA have consistently indicated it is the most effective use of accreditation as an organization growth tool, and it has involved more of their staff in the process. Many agencies have found compliance concerns because of the testing of standards-based systems, where policy and practice were not congruent. And, these findings were determined to be critical to the agency’s operational or administrative soundness. This allows for repairs through proactive intervention, thereby preventing future problems from arising. The GSA moves the accreditation process from a file management exercise to an assessment of intended outcomes based specifically on agency needs.
Agencies that are interested in participating in the GSA should consult with their assigned CALEA Regional Program Manager about one year prior to their normal assessment time. This will allow for a review of issues affecting the agency and more specific discussions on how to prepare for the GSA. Agency representatives should also review the CALEA® Annual Agency Status Report, as it provides a strong influence on issues that will be reviewed during the GSA process.
CALEA is the Gold Standard for Public Safety Agencies and the GSA is another example of how accreditation supports continuous professional development.