As the University’s Department of Public Safety prepares to undergo re-accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies — an agency that evaluates and grants credentials of organizations based on a variety of criteria — it hopes to maintain its CALEA certification, which differentiates it from any other college police department in the state.
CALEA, which first accredited DPS in 2009, will send two assessors to visit the University later this month to re-evaluate DPS policies, management and procedure in order to decide whether the department will be re-accredited for another three years.
Nine police agencies in Michigan are currently accredited by CALEA, but DPS is the only University law enforcement agency accredited by CALEA in the state. According to CALEA program manager Christie Goddard, 55 university public safety agencies are accredited by CALEA throughout the world and 28 others are currently undergoing their first accreditation processes.
CALEA evaluates public safety departments in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Barbados based on several standards, including the efficiency and transparency of the organization.
Goddard said re-accreditation is tougher for police agencies than initial accreditation because departments have had three years to implement their policies.
“They’re going to have a little bit of a tougher time because they’ve now got to show they’ve been following everything they put in place back in 2009,” she said.
Goddard added that CALEA sets requirements for what law enforcement organizations must do to stay accredited, but does not determine how they should execute the requirements.
“They need to develop a policy and procedure that meets the standard,” Goddard said. “Then we come in and we look and see one: if the policies and procedure meet the intent of the standard, and two: are you following that policy and procedure?”
Dean Tondiglia, assistant chief of the Kent State University Police Department in Ohio, and Geoffrey Ice, executive director of the Connecticut State Police Academy Alumni Educational Foundation Inc., are the CALEA officials who will assess DPS in the upcoming weeks. Tondiglia and Ice will review DPS documents, interview staff and inspect buildings to make sure standards are met.
As part of their evaluation, the assessors will host a meeting at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 26 in the Campus Safety Service Building, where the public can offer input on how well DPS has met the more than 460 accreditation standards CALEA requires police agencies to uphold.
Goddard said the public event is open for anyone who has comments about how well DPS policies have met CALEA standards.
“It’s a completely public event to talk about the agency’s pursuit for accreditation,” Goddard said. “CALEA is not an investigative agency, so if they are having some concerns about that, this is not the proper venue, this is truly about the agency’s pursuit for accreditation. They’ll listen to anything and take comments and criticisms.”
DPS spokeswoman Diane Brown said a similar opportunity for the public to comment was held in 2009, adding that the event will offer the public a chance to help the assessors with their evaluation.
“It’s kind of structured differently, because it’s not our meeting,” Brown said. “It’s a meeting that the assessors actually hold so they can hear feedback from the community so they can hear how the community thinks the department adheres to its policies.”
Brown noted that the public didn’t provide CALEA with much feedback in 2009, but was generally positive.
“There was very little feedback last time,” Brown said. “Essentially everything that was said at the public meeting was positive and supportive.”
DPS may face criticism this year for its involvement in the six-month delay in reporting former UMHS resident Stephen Jenson’s alleged possession of child pornography at the University Hospital in May. The University’s internal audit reported that DPS failed to respond to a voicemail regarding the incident left by a Hospital Security officer.
Brown said the department does not expect the Jenson case to be an issue with CALEA accreditors.
“Things that happened with Jenson were not part of us,” Brown said. “When we were notified of the alleged crime with the Jenson case, we investigated it promptly, so thus we don’t expect the accreditation to be impacted with that case.”
She added that DPS has measures in place to ensure their policies reflect CALEA standards.
“We don’t need to bother the whole department with the CALEA standards because they need to follow the policies,” Brown said. “But the people who work most closely with our accreditation process and the people who have to review and revise policy have to be sure that when they revise the policies they know what the standards are.”
Brown said public safety departments on college campuses have additional CALEA standards to meet, such as compliance with the Jeanne Clery Act, which requires that colleges throughout the United States disclose information about crime near campuses, as DPS does through its annual report and its daily crime log.
“One standard for higher education police agencies has to do with the Clery Act and whether or not we have certain elements in place that correspond to the Clery Act; issuing our crime stats, having a daily crime log,” she said.
Brown said DPS expects to be re-accredited and stressed that DPS is taking the process very seriously.
“We think that accreditation is very important,” Brown said. “Not only because accreditation in an academic environment is evidence of successful performance, but also because we believe that affirmation of following a very high industry standard is very important to our community, and an expectation of our community.”
—Daily News Editor Adam Rubenfire contributed to this report.