By Linda Looney-Bond
The Clayton County Police Department is expecting a team of assessors from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) to begin a four-day site visit today, as the department seeks to gain accreditation.
CALEA is a non-profit accrediting authority headquartered in Fairfax, Va., according to the organization's web site.
Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner said CALEA accreditation recognizes excellence and professionalism among public safety agencies. It means "you are recognized nationally as being a CALEA-accredited agency, which means that you're looked upon as having a professional organization whose standards and policies have been reviewed and certified," he said.
"It gives the community a sense of pride in their police department, in knowing that they have a professional agency," he added.
During the visit, the CALEA assessment team is expected to examine all aspects of the police department's policies and procedures, management, operations, and support services, according to a statement issued by the department.
The police department must comply with 363 standards to gain CALEA accreditation, according to Turner.
"The standards touch on all aspects of the operations and management of the law enforcement agency, including safety issues, grievance procedures, disciplinary process, internal affairs, and citizen complaints," Louis Dekmar, chairman of the CALEA Board of Commissioners, said recently. Dekmar is also chief of police for the City of LaGrange.
The CALEA Board of Commissioners is composed of 21 members, including police chiefs from across the country.
Tuner said one example of policies and procedures that would be examined by the assessment team is the Clayton County Police Department's policy on the use of canines in law enforcement.
"There's a strict policy on the use of canines, in terms of when to allow the dog off the leash in pursuit of a suspect. When you send them into a house or business, one of our policies is the officer must announce that he is about the release the dog into the house or business for a search," Turner said.
He said another example of a policy that would be reviewed is the department's requirement that officers who seek to work an off-duty, part-time job, have the job approved by police department management.
"For example, you might want to be a security guard in a liquor store, or even if you want to work at Walmart, you still have to give us that part-time job request. Because, ultimately, if something happens [on that job] ... and they find out the officer is a Clayton County Police officer, liability is attached to that, and it will always come back to us, so that's why we try to govern that," Turner said.
Turner said the department began the process of preparing to gain accreditation about two years ago. He said the department should know within about a week of the assessment whether it has been granted accreditation.
Dekmar said earlier this month that two police departments in Clayton County had previously been accredited by CALEA. They are the City of Riverdale and City of Forest Park police departments.
Other metro-Atlanta police departments that are accredited by CALEA include the Atlanta Police Department, and the police departments of Fulton, Gwinnett and Cobb counties, according to Dekmar.
As part of the on-site assessment for the Clayton County Police department, members of the public are invited to offer comments to the CALEA assessment team during a public-information session, according to Lt. Tina Daniel, a spokesperson for the police department.
The session is scheduled to take place Monday, Dec. 14 at 5:30 p.m., at the Clayton County Police Headquarters, located at 7911 N. McDonough St., in Jonesboro.
The public may also make comments to the assessment team on Monday by telephone, at (770) 477-3918, between the hours of 1 and 3 p.m., according to Daniel.