Is national accreditation worth it for city police?

January 04, 2012

I read the article "City police shuffle ranks, seek national accreditation" (Dec. 31) with a vested interest as a retired Baltimore City police officer. The awarding of "accreditation" for police agencies is not a new concept and existed well before my own retirement, some 16 years ago. The process of being certified as an accredited agency is exhaustive and covers literally every function within the department. To prepare the agency for this certification is a labor- and time-intensive undertaking, involving participation at all levels.

Of course, all modern law enforcement agencies are in a perpetual state of self-inspection, self-evaluation and modification, to insure the timeliness and effectiveness, of their operations and to keep pace with ever-evolving technologies, procedures, policies and laws. I am certain that the Baltimore Police Department is similarly in a constant cycle of such "top down" and "bottom up" self re-evaluation. The nature of the beast requires that.

But there is a difference between that and the requirements attendant to accreditation. To seek accreditation involve the devotion of a significant amount of resources and time; it is a budgetary consideration, with a cost involved.

The agency should outline for the taxpayers, the anticipated value to them, as the financiers, of the accreditation of the agency. And the taxpayers need to ask some questions for themselves, such as: "Will accreditation improve police response time, reduce crime, or reduce the cost to the taxpayer?" And: "Will the process involved for seeking this certification, in any way, negatively impact the agency's manpower?" Essentially do the "benefits" of accreditation significantly exceed the manpower costs to achieve it?

Or is this just something that would be nice to do? Costly, but nice?

Robert L. DiStefano, Abingdon

The writer is a retired Baltimore Police major.

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