GW’s University Police Department joined an elite group of less than 1 percent of campus police departments late last month after it received national accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.
CALEA is a voluntary accreditation agency that assesses law enforcement agencies across the country at all levels. CALEA Program Manager Steve Mitchell said the University had to comply with at least 450 challenging standards to receive accreditation. The standards are generally based on the agency’s personnel, management, administration, organization, operations, auxiliary and technical services, traffic operations, and prisoner and court-related activities.
Representatives from CALEA completed an on-site inspection of UPD in January to make sure that the police department was in compliance with its strict standards. UPD also attended a public hearing in which CALEA heard testimony from agency personnel, assessors, staff and members of the community.
UPD decided to undergo the accreditation process four years ago, culminating in accredited status from CALEA last week.
“A significant amount of time has been spent, over the past four years, preparing the department for the initial on-site assessment,” UPD Police Chief Dolores Stafford wrote in an e-mail last week. “We spent time developing and revising policies, procedures and practices, as well as improving our equipment and facilities, to bring everything into compliance with the national standards.”
Stafford mentioned that UPD was greatly improved by having to comply with CALEA’s many standards and said one example was improving the conditions of UPD’s headquarters, at Woodhull House.
“CALEA required that we make security measures for our generator. Now the Woodhull House has a security method for its electric generator. This is a good, concrete example of how this process helped UPD,” Stafford said in an interview last week.
Stafford also said that this recent accreditation might help UPD recruit top officers to join its staff.
“One of the benefits that we’ve started to see in the last six months or so is a lot of qualified candidates with a lot of experience. Part of the attraction to work for UPD is this accreditation. Some candidates have even indicated that UPD’s accreditation was a deciding factor in working here,” she said.
Mitchell said that UPD will have to continue to uphold these standards to keep its accreditation in the future.
“CALEA is on a three-year cycle and returns to the agency every three years,” he said.
Mitchell mentioned that this accreditation will help GW’s reputation in the law enforcement community.
“A total of 75 university police departments are under the process of accreditation. This isn’t a lot, considering how many campus police departments are out there. This will put GW’s UPD in a minority among UPDs,” he said. “This accreditation will give the agency a built-in accreditation and credibility. This is a very profession-driven process.”
In D.C., the Amtrak Police Department, Metro Transit Police and the United States Capitol Police share this distinction. D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department and the Georgetown University Public Safety Department are currently in the self-assessment process of seeking accreditation.