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CALEA Update Magazine | Issue 96

CALEA Accreditation: A Twenty-One Year Journey

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The Arvada (CO) Police Department is a suburban “C” sized agency located in the Denver metropolitan area. We began the quest to become CALEA Accredited in the early 1980s under the direction of the now retired chief of police, Dr. Jerry Williams, and received our initial Law Enforcement Accreditation Award in March 1986. We have received six subsequent reaccreditation awards, including the most recent at the November 2007 Colorado Springs conference, where we were also recognized as a “CALEA Flagship” agency. The following highlights a couple important lessons we learned along the way over our journey of 21 years and seven accreditation on-site assessments.

First, remain focused on your objectives and be persistent!  The Arvada Police Department has undertaken each accreditation facing a variety of obstacles: new police chiefs (4), new accreditation managers (6), and new editions to the standards manual (5). Over the years, we have probably made every mistake imaginable, but what remains consistent is the focus of the accreditation team and our organizational commitment to remain CALEA Accredited. We approach each accreditation cycle with the same dedication to professionalism in law enforcement that motivated our predecessors to undertake initial accreditation. These values continue today under the leadership of Chief Don Wick.

Secondly, we’ve learned to keep our files current and to begin preparations for the on-site early. Accreditation managers, responsible for file maintenance, appreciate the difficulty of obtaining time sensitive reports from organizational components who deal with the day-to-day priorities of a law enforcement organization. This can be one of the most difficult issues to address in preparation for the on-site. The organizational message must be clear: time sensitive reports are a priority which must be completed correctly and on time.

There are many methods available to remind people of their assignments prior to the due date, so choose one that works for your agency. Beginning on-site preparations with up-to-date files makes the process much easier. Likewise, involve as many people in the process as possible to maximize the organizational understanding of accreditation and allow enough time prior to the on-site to address unforeseen problems.

What does twenty-one years of accreditation mean for the Arvada Police Department?  It is important to remember that this has been an evolving process. The initial years of accreditation reflected the accreditation staff’s commitment; however, individuals within the organization who were not involved in the process, generally didn’t fully understand its purpose. They received training about CALEA and understood our involvement, but when questions arose about a policy or procedure, the usual response was “because CALEA required it!” 

Since those early years, much has changed. There are very few people left in the organization who recall working at the department prior to accreditation. We continue to educate our personnel on the CALEA Process and Program. Most have learned the agency’s directives without realizing what is and is not required to meet CALEA Standards. It is rare today to have someone respond with the aforementioned “because CALEA requires it” to a question about the rational behind a policy or procedure. Personnel conduct business within the framework of the directive system, and therefore within the framework of CALEA Standards. What began as an admirable staff project has evolved into an integral part of the culture of the organization. I think this is the goal of every organization who undertakes the challenge of becoming, and remaining, a CALEA Accredited Agency!

Deputy Chief Gary C. Creager
Arvada Police Department
Arvada, Colorado
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