CALEA assessors: MPD qualifies for gold standard

May. 11, 2013 @ 09:41 AM

Two assessors with the Commission for Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies gave the Monroe Police Department a glowing review Thursday.

Chief Mark Scott from Albany, Ga., and Lt. Craig Stone from Columbus, Ohio, spent four days in Monroe, interviewing residents, officers and command staff, Chief Debra Duncan said. Scott and Stone presented her with some areas that could be improved. But she was proud that the assessor found no major problems.

"This is a learning experience for us. For all of us," she said.

"Those of you who have been involved with CALEA accreditation process, you know there's a lot of paperwork involved," Scott said.

To get accredited, the department needed to get policies into place. During review three years later, all proof needed to be in place to show policies were up to date.

"CALEA has come out with a new process in the last couple of years. It's called a gold-standard assessment," Scott said. "And in that gold standard, it's not about the files anymore. It's about the agency and what you do."

Departments can look good on paper, but it might not reflect daily operations, he said.  

More challenging is an on-site assessment. Most departments try to keep CALEA assessors away from officers and employees because it is easier to look good on paper, Scott said.

"Your chief and your department have done something that is to be commended," he said. "You opted for this gold standard."

Instead of reviewing files, assessors interviewed department staff and local people to see if the department follows CALEA's 400-plus standards for compliance.

Duncan identified focus areas for the assessors to look at - community policing, facilities, training and agency morale.

"I can say that I have been to agencies all over the United States - dozens - and I can't think of one that does community policing any better than the Monroe Police Department," Scott said.

It was a quality "ingrained into the fabric" of what the department does, not just for individual officers but in programs, community groups, events, fundraisers and volunteering.

"Whatever the cause is, you've got some people who are extremely passionate and devoted to what it is that they're trying to do," Scott said.

When Scott and Stone talked to people around Monroe, they all mentioned the "walking police chief." Except for a police chief who read water meters during the day, Scott said he had never seen a chief that walked the community more than Duncan.

Monroe residents said officers are approachable.

Facilities could be better organized, Scott said. Traffic, narcotics and assault units are housed away from the main headquarters now, but would work better if moved back into the main building.

Scott praised the department's training facility and shooting range.

"Looking at the way you're doing training, I think you're right on track," he said. The department appears to be concentrating on firearms training for real-life situations which is above and beyond what is required. He encouraged Duncan to continue that by adding firearm simulators or giving officers more time for scenario-based training.

School resource officers are motivated to train for emergency situations where they are the only officer in the school, Scott said.

"They know that if something happens in that school, there's not going to be an opportunity to wait for backup to get there and you're definitely not going to have time for the SWAT team to get together," he said.  "Whoever is in that school is going to have to handle it."

Stone concentrated on department operations. He also noted that officers were involved in the communities, mentor children, interact with residents and remain approachable to people outside of emergency situations. When Capt. Bryan Gilliard walked into a Monroe Rotary Club meeting, Stone said he was received like a celebrity. He commended Lt. T.J. Goforth's involvement in Turning Point.

"That's excellent stuff, to make those connections with the community, being involved and directing people to the services that can really help them," Stone said.

On ride-alongs with officers, Stone said each was well versed in policies about pursuit and use of force.

"They were sharp. They knew what the policies were," Stone said.

He went on calls with several officers and observed them following policies, responding to resident complaints, doing good investigation work and displaying real care in what they do, Stone said.

"In my former job, ten years in inspections and two years in internal affairs, I have a keen attention to detail and I couldn't find any major problems here," he said.  

Local Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents had nothing but praise for the department's criminal investigations department. Detectives support patrol officers. All officers follow up on cases regularly. The department has a capable crime scene investigation team. And they have a volunteer special response team means the department does not have to call people in from outside when needed, Stone said.

There were areas the department could improve.

"One thing I would recommend is you should take advantage of hostage negotiators and not have to rely on the county or some other agency," he said. "I know you've had some people trained, but maybe you might consider having some people designated to be hostage negotiators and they be a part of that call-out as well."

He recommended the department keep hobble straps in every police car for subduing violent, upset or suicidal subjects.

Scott suggested Duncan get more of her staff involved in goal planning.

But in their summary, Scott and Stone commented on the lack of things the can be improved upon.

"There were really no issues that we found that needed to be corrected. We found you to be in compliance with all the applicable standards," Scott said.