During the 1960s and early 1970s, United States law enforcement faced a number of large-scale civil disturbances. Many American cities experienced riots with significant loss of life and property damage. Many citizens lost confidence in their law enforcement agencies due to their seeming inability to prepare for and deal with these events. Law enforcement agencies were viewed as unable or unwilling to learn from others’ mistakes and as having little, if any, coordination between themselves and other agencies.
Law enforcement officers were often viewed as under-trained, and their selection and hiring practices often were discriminatory. Policies and procedures were often poorly written or sometimes, nonexistent, and many in the general public did not respect law enforcement officers as professionals. Issues of accountability, integrity, liability, performance, and community partnership dominated the public dialogue and media coverage of law enforcement.
In response, the United States Department of Justice provided a grant to the four leading law enforcement executive associations to advance law enforcement professionalism by establishing voluntary standards. The organizations were: International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP); National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE); National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA); and Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). The result of this initiative was the creation in 1979 of a private, non-profit corporation: The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA®)
The CALEA Accreditation Process provided other public safety agencies an opportunity to voluntarily demonstrate that they meet an established set of professional standards. This involved the establishing of a body of standards designed to increase:
- Public safety agency capabilities to maintain law and order;
- Agency effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery of public safety services;
- Cooperation and coordination with other public safety agencies, and with other agencies in the criminal justice system; and
- Citizen and employee confidence in the goals, objectives, policies, and practices of the agency.