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home : news : news Tuesday, May 24, 2016

8/31/2013 Email this articlePrint this article 
Accepting accreditation. At the recent CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies) conference in Columbus, Ohio, are (from left) Sylvester Daughtry Jr., executive director of CALEA; Steve Lindner, DeWitt city administrator, Marc Swingle, DeWitt police captain, David Porter, DeWitt police chief; and Louis Dekmar, chairman of the CALEA board of commissioners. The DeWitt Police Department will have to go through the accreditation process every three years to maintain its compliance with CALEA. Contributed photo
Police department meets 'gold standard' in public safety

By Kate Howes
Staff writer

Three year's worth of tedious, time-consuming work on behalf of the entire staff all has paid off now that the DeWitt Police Department officially has become CALEA® accredited.

CALEA, or the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, is a credentialing authority established to improve the delivery of public safety services by maintaining a particular body of standards.

CALEA's goals are to strengthen crime prevention and control capabilities, formalize essential management procedures, establish fair and nondiscriminatory personnel practices, improve service delivery, solidify interagency cooperation and coordination and increase community and staff confidence in the agency.

The DeWitt Police Department is one of the smallest, if not the smallest, agency in the state to be CALEA accredited.

Chief David Porter and captain and accreditation manager Marc Swingle say the process both was educational and arduous at the same time.

Yet, now they have in place a meticulous system of checks and balances that will ensure the department has the correct policies and follows them to the letter.

"This is a way to have transparency with the community," Porter explains. "The purpose of this is to keep with the current trends in technology, law enforcement and community needs and to prove we're doing that."

The process began when former chief Tom Whitten signed the agreement to become CALEA accredited in April 2010. However, Whitten resigned just a few months later. Porter was hired in December 2010 and in the end, the department had to complete three years worth of work in just two years.

"It's very impressive you were able to finish the process while hiring a new chief in the middle of it all," city administrator Steve Lindner told Porter at the Aug. 19 council meeting.

"This really is quite an achievement," mayor Don Thiltgen added. "I commend you for being able to do this."

CALEA has 188 standards the department was required to meet - regarding everything from vehicle pursuits to handling of property and evidence. The process consisted of staff members working together to document everything and prove their policies meet those standards.

"(Being accredited) is beneficial for the officers in that it provides them a blueprint to follow," Swingle relates. "If ever they're unsure of something, they can just look at the policies and procedures and see how they need to handle it. All the officers have the general orders - they're on the laptop computers in the patrol cars and on all the computer desktops in the office."

The accreditation also helps to shelter the city from any liability issues concerning the department.

Not only did the police need to bring their policies up to speed, but they also had to conduct a community survey and undergo an on-site assessment for which law enforcement officers from Nebraska, Ohio, Illinois and western Iowa came to interview officers as well as residents regarding their contact with the department.

Porter and Swingle say during the process, officers divided into groups to check proofs of the policies, which in turn gave them the opportunity to write and become more familiar with the policies and why they exist.

"It really was a team effort," Porter notes. "Everyone had their part in it."

What will make keeping on top of policies and policy updates easier and more efficient will be using the Power DMS CALEA management software.

At their meeting Aug. 19, city council members approved subscribing to the software system that will make everything electronic and get rid of the paper-based system.

"(Being CALEA accredited) professionalizes our agency," Porter says. "We have added, subtracted and enhanced basically all of our policies. Everyone in the entire department rose to the challenge to make

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