Madison County Sheriff’s Office begins voluntary law enforcement accreditation process

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) -- The Madison County Sheriff's Office has launched an effort to earn accreditation through CALEA, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

It's a voluntary process. And it's kind of expensive because it's so training-intensive, said Lieutenant Chad Brooks, but "it's just a matter of getting better," he said.

The department has begun the first phase of the three-year process: self-assessment. They're looking deeply at their own policies to make them stronger, said Brooks, by synchronizing them with CALEA's standards for best practices.

"The highest ethical standards of law enforcement in everything that we do," is the goal, said Brooks. "What this does is it gives us a roadmap. It gives us parameters for how to achieve that goal."

By the time it's through, if the agency is approved, Brooks says deputies will have a clearer understanding of rules and expectations through revised policies and CALEA oversight.

He said this would also be a good thing for the community because with accreditation, "We [would] serve our public better. The public [would see] a more prepared, more professional Madison County Sheriff's Department moving forward," he said.

We asked if this process was a reaction to unrest across the country, and he said no, indicating it's a true effort for improvement and accountability within their agency.

"This is important to the sheriff, it's important to the chief, it's important to all of us," he said.

The Madison Police Department started their own CALEA accreditation process two years ago. Now, two years in, they're wrapping up policy changes from a thorough review and preparing to train officers to work with their new approaches.

"It takes time, there's commitment to doing it," said Lt. Wayne Kamus of CALEA, "but it's worth it in the long run."

He said some of the changes they've made include document management shifting reports and policy handbooks from paper to a digital cloud system accessible even in officers' cruisers, and better outlining within the policy what needs to be done to care for K-9s in the department. He said they've also taken a look at and revised their court security procedures to better outline how to handle emergencies that may occur while court is in session.

"We have those in place so the officers know what to do, how to get the people out," he said.

Kamus said another part of CALEA accreditation centers around follow-through. The commission wants to make sure law enforcement sticks to changes they make and actually comply with policies they've enacted.

Each department has the freedom through this process to work out their own changes in different ways, but they do agree the end result should benefit them as well as the communities they serve.

"Anyone who has sought accreditation will tell you this is not a rubber stamp. This is not an easy process. This is something that will require years. It's very training intensive. You don't just write a policy and suddenly comply to it," said Brooks. "It's a monumental shift in how we conduct ourselves at very many levels across the agency."