Eagle County sheriff candidates discuss accreditations
EAGLE COUNTY —Today, we pose the following questions to the candidates for the Eagle County sheriff: Does anyone really care what kind of plaques you have hanging on your wall when they call you for help? How are you going to pay for it?
James van Beek, Republican
While I certainly am willing to and am intent on increasing the standards and methods used in the office to meet or exceed standards to function and be used at the office, I do not feel the cost benefit for being certified through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, as my opponent suggests, is practical, as the costs include initial assessment of $10,000, with the additional cost of transportation and housing of assessment staff, yearly renewal fees, etc. Theses are the costs of admin staff to write and/or rework process to meet their certification standards.
While it is good to operate under the most effective and best practices in responding to the public and how to best work cases, practices in detention, court security and civil services, which are all things mandated by statute that are required by the office, is what they (the public) will see. Paying an enormous sum for a certification for me is not a best practice when those standards can be reached through a different approach obtained through the County Sheriffs of Colorado and Colorado Association Chiefs of Police, which can help identify areas of improvement and operation for little to no cost. If the benefit is that the office can be evaluated and certified by my peers for a much more nominal fee.
Daric Harvey, Democrat
The accreditation of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and Detention Center by outside, independent agencies will provide transparency and accountability of the organizations. The real-world cost of such programs as CALEA are minor in comparison to the standards of excellence and cultural change that can be derived. Both The National Sheriff’s Organization and The International Association of Police Chiefs are supporters of the CALEA program and its values. Locally, the Avon Police Department is currently CALEA certified and the Vail Police Department is in the accreditation process.
Accreditation by governing or overseeing bodies is commonplace in the public and private sector:
• Health care: The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.
• Law: The American Bar Association.
• Medicine: American Medical Association.
• Education: Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.
These organizations lend credibility to their members in the eyes of the public, peers and the business sector. Many other organizations, such as laboratories, cannot function without employees who have accreditation in their respective fields.
For the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, such accreditation through CALEA or a similar organization can influence the perception of the public, attorneys or juries as to the level of professionalism by which the Sheriff’s Office is led and operated.
The accreditation process itself provides an opportunity by which the Sheriff’s Office can review and update policies and procedures — a process not completed since before 2001. A recent move to internally update these policies and procedures was priced at $40,000 for a one time review and revision. The changes and challenges that have been presented to law enforcement agencies since 9/11 have in many cases mandated changes to policies including communications and emergency response. The accreditation process can map the direction for agencies nationwide and can improve cross-agency communications and effectiveness. Those changes result in plans that can be quickly and efficiently implemented to serve the public and save lives.
The “expensive plaque on the wall” argument fails to properly, if at all, address the investment that agencies make in themselves, their staff and in the protection of their community. The initial cost of CALEA certification to the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office would be $7,500. Annual fees including on-site evaluation is $3,695. Since the CALEA accreditation process would require a complete review and possible revision of certain policies and procedures the cost in comparison to the proposed $40,000 review seems more than reasonable. State level accreditation programs can be implemented for less than a $1,000 cost to the organization. Forfeited funds from criminal activities can be used to be used to pay the fees for either of these two programs.
Accreditation also brings with it accountability — accountability in the sense that once a higher standard of service is identified, it can be achieved, and once achieved, maintained and improved.
Accreditation programs like CALEA provide clearly defined pathways to excellence in organizational operations, management, accountability and transparency and can help to build the Sheriff’s Office that Eagle County residents want and deserve.