By Linda Looney-Bond
The Riverdale Police Department is now one of the few police departments in Georgia to become internationally accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).
Only 38 police departments in Georgia have received the distinction, out of more than 550 police departments in the state, according to Louis Dekmar, chairman of the organization's board of commissioners.
CALEA is a non-profit accrediting authority that is head-quartered in Fairfax, Virginia, according to the organization's web site.
The authority was established in 1979 by four major law-enforcement executive associations, according to Riverdale Police Chief Samuel Patterson. Those organizations are: The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), the National Sheriffs' Association (NSA), and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF).
"We are ecstatic," said Patterson. "We are very proud to have been involved in the process, to have successfully completed the process," he said.
"It more than just puts a feather in our cap, it reduces our amount of liability," he said. "Because we operate under best practices, our risk of exposure is reduced, if we're involved in court litigation."
"It's [the accreditation process] a significant undertaking, and I think it demonstrates a commitment to professionalism and excellence that will not only serve their agency well, but will also serve their community," said Dekmar, who is also the chief of police for the City of Lagrange, Ga.
The CALEA Board of Commissioners, of which Dekmar is the chairman, is composed of 21 members, including police chiefs from across the country.
"There are 463 standards that are reviewed by the assessment team [for accreditation], and during the course of the review, they [police departments] have to be in compliance with the standards," he said.
"The standards touch on all aspects of the operations and management of the law enforcement agency, including officer safety issues, grievance procedures, disciplinary process, internal affairs, and citizen complaints," said Dekmar.
"One example of a standard would be that the video cameras in the patrol cars must be turned on whenever the emergency equipment is engaged -- such as blue lights and siren," said Patterson. "That's one of our policies," he said.
"We have video cameras in all of our patrol cars. Every agency doesn't," he said.
The Riverdale Police Department is one of two Clayton County police departments that are accredited by CALEA, according to Dekmar. The Forest Park Police Department is the othe.
"I believe the Clayton County Police Department is in the process of self-assessment -- reviewing their standards, protocols and procedures -- for the purpose of an on-site visit, and ultimately, receiving accreditation status," Dekmar said.
Other metro Atlanta police departments that are accredited by CALEA include: the Atlanta Police Department, and the Fulton County, Gwinnett County, and Cobb County police departments, according to Dekmar.
The Riverdale Police Dapartment became accredited in August. "We had the chairman of CALEA [Dekmar] come to Riverdale on Nov. 23, and he presented the CALEA accreditation certificate to the mayor and council at a council meeting," said Patterson.
Patterson said the department now proudly displays the CALEA symbol. "We ordered CALEA pins that can be placed on the uniforms of all of our officers, and on the lapels of our civilian employees, that indicate that we are CALEA-accredited," he said.
"We've also placed decals on both sides of our patrol cars, indicating the CALEA symbol," he added.