April 9, 2013

Dalton Police seek national accreditation

Rachel Brown

— Dalton resident Palmer Griffin was the lone member of the general public who spoke at a forum Monday to comment on the Dalton Police Department during its bid for national accreditation — and he had high praise.

Griffin, a retired Dalton Public Schools administrator, said he remembers working with Chief Jason Parker through a campus sniper threat and later a bomb blast at a business near a school. Griffin said he was impressed with how quickly and efficiently police responded to the situations.

“I enjoyed working with the Dalton agency over the years personally and professionally,” he said.

Parker said the department began the voluntary process of national accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) in April 2011. It requires organizing and revising numerous policies, procedures, personnel practices and input from the community. It also requires two out-of-state assessors to review hundreds of folders of information covering 480 standards, complete ride-alongs with officers, and talk with employees.

The assessors, Huntersville (N.C.) Police Chief Philip Potter and Greenville (S.C.) Police Department Communications Administrator Frances Moore, came to Dalton to begin that process on Sunday and expect to finish Wednesday. In addition to the public forum, Moore and Potter also took a handful of phone calls and one letter on Monday, and they said anyone who couldn’t attend the forum can still visit calea.org for information, call (800) 368-3757, ext. 29, or send email to calea@calea.org with “Dalton Police Department” in the subject line.

National accreditation costs about $3,000 per year and is covered by seized assets rather than taxpayer dollars, Parker said. Only 30 law enforcement agencies in Georgia are accredited out of about 700, he said.

Parker said that while the department is already state accredited, he believes the national accreditation is important because it “increases the legitimacy of the agency” in the public eye, fosters improvement as officers take a harder look at how they do business, and cuts down on liability insurance costs.

“Accreditation causes you to look internally, too, at your fiscal management, training, personnel and virtually every facet of your operation,” Parker said.

He said he expects a decision from the 21-member accreditation board at its next meeting, likely in late July.

Potter said assessors aren’t allowed to publicly discuss their findings while accreditation is ongoing.