The Widespread Benefits of Pursuing Law Enforcement Accreditation

At this time, few of the nation’s law enforcement agencies are accredited on either the state or national level. Is your department prepared with a program built for law enforcement professionals that would improve its personnel’s readiness and skill level, enhance transparency and morale throughout a department, and limit liability?

While most small to mid-sized police departments might not see a need for accreditation, the departments that do will be able to capitalize on these accreditation benefits.

What is accreditation?

Accreditation is corroboration by an independent third party that industry best practices have been met and are continuously monitored to ensure compliance.

Different industries have used accreditation for several years. Colleges and universities must meet specific federal government accreditation standards to participate in federal financial aid programs. Hospitals and healthcare facilities must also be accredited to participate in federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

While there are currently no federal funding opportunities tied to law enforcement accreditation, respected groups can still verify a department’s compliance with carefully developed systematic policies, procedures, and training recommendations.

For example, IADLEST offers nationally accredited courses (which can be found on Acadis Network).

Accreditation guidelines are based on the input of judges, lawyers, educational institutions, and others, so police departments aren’t forced to police themselves.

Being accredited is an ongoing process. The day-to-day activities of police departments seeking accreditation are measured over time. The accrediting body will also visit in person or online to conduct an assessment.

Once the accrediting body verifies compliance, the department must maintain continuous goals to retain its accredited status.

Before 2020, police accreditation was a voluntary process, and no state required accreditation of their law enforcement agencies. However, recent calls for police reform have changed the landscape, and state legislatures in Florida, Connecticut, and Oregon now require law enforcement agencies to obtain accreditation.

More states are likely to follow.


Benefits of accreditation

Even if your state does not require accreditation, the many tangible benefits for your department make it worth the investment.

Pursuing accreditation improves department metrics

Following state or national best practices in your daily activities will make your department more effective.

Having goals and recommended gold standards to pursue for responsibilities like critical incident responses, use of force, and vehicle pursuits provide a blueprint on how best to handle such situations when they arise. Every emergency and every circumstance is different, but if your officers have trained for different contingencies, they will be better prepared when called.

When a police department or law enforcement agency commits to the accreditation process, they target excellence in all aspects of policing, including leadership, training, and resource management.

They are also committing to maintaining the accreditation benchmarks on a recurring basis to retain their accreditation status over time.

This ensures that a department is keeping pace with evolving research, training, and best practices.

Accreditation limits liability

Accreditation guidelines not only provide awareness and recommendations on best practices, but they help highlight blind spots a department seeking accreditation may need to address.

Accreditation policies are specifically written to reduce the prospect of a department’s liability for both criminal and civil litigation. Adherence to best practices reduces the occurrence of incidents that might lead to lawsuits.

Verified compliance of a department’s policies and procedures can help prevent costly litigation.

Showing that you are following approved best practices—along with independent verification—will go a long way in defending your department and officers in court.

Limiting a department’s liability also helps maintain good standing with your insurer. It helps prevent insurance cancellation and bankruptcy when departments cannot obtain liability insurance if canceled or must pay court-ordered damages.

Taxpayers also benefit from an adequately insured police department.

It’s better to weather the expense of liability insurance and huddle with town leaders on how to finance it—rather than have to explain why a department may be forced to dissolve due to being inadequately covered and underwritten by an insurer.

Accreditation enhances transparency and accountability

Accountability to your community is another benefit of police accreditation. When town councils or oversight boards have questions involving training, use-of-force incidents, or evidence handling, the accreditation process ensures easy access and sharing of information—which helps make a department both accountable and transparent.

Improved transparency and accountability lead to more community trust. City leaders that know their police force is focused and working diligently towards adopting gold standards created by state or federal accreditation agencies will better appreciate their dedication and service to the communities they serve.

Tools to support accreditation

As with any worthwhile solution, accreditation involves upfront costs, but digital technology can help significantly reduce the expense and effort required.

Central access to department records and policies

A digital management system stores the records needed for accreditation in a central online location. Customizable data solutions can help departments meet statutory requirements, improve workflow, and enhance communication between departments by standardizing their processes per accreditation guidelines.

Compliance verification

Verification of compliance activities throughout a department can be a headache without the right tracking tools. Streamlined for efficiency and designed with encrypted security in mind, compliance software can follow the verification process, track various compliance actions throughout an agency, and ensure that complete and accurate information is accessible and shareable as needed.

Notification alerts

Accreditation is a comprehensive, complex process because of the various compliance standards that departments must meet. With so many moving parts and the need to synchronize them, it’s vital that nothing is missed and falls through the cracks.

Therefore, your management software should alert you to requirements you may have missed before an accrediting audit is held.

Your software should also notify your internal accreditation team when standards need updates and allow digital distribution of those standards following the changes.

In summary, accreditation offers multipurpose functionality. It helps law enforcement stay up-to-date with the industry’s best practices, it fosters accountability to the communities it serves, and it improves a department’s insurability status.

Accreditation on the state or national level may be a police department’s best solution to addressing the uncertainty of the past 18 months.

The question isn’t can your department afford to invest in accreditation, but rather can it afford not to?

Sources: Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, National Police Foundation, Governing, WAVY

Want to discover a tool for relieving the burden of compliance and documentation for accreditation?

Posted on Nov 4, 2021