By Victor O'Brien
Killeen Daily Herald
The Killeen Police Department is spending numerous hours of work to become accredited from a program that the Temple Police Department determined simply wasn't worth the expense.
KPD is seeking to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), which is an internationally recognized accreditation organization that started in 1984.
The program touts itself as reducing liability, strengthening accountability and improving citizen relationships through over 450 standards, with many more subordinate standards.
The effort to become accredited has taken three years, countless hours of re-organizing and the bulk of the work rests in a 5-foot-tall filing cabinet with four full drawers in which Capt. Lee Caufield, KPD chief of staff, keeps files on all 450 standards.
However, KPD will only be required to meet certain standards based on which services the department offers.
"Most of these are reasonable approaches to how operation should be at a police department," said Caufield, who handles accreditation for the department.
CALEA requires the department to have policies in place for anything from processing arrests to VIP security, but individual departments choose how to implement those policies, Caufield said.
The Temple Police Department pulled out the program after joining in 1999 and will stop being accredited by CALEA at the end of 2008 because of the time and the costs associated with the group.
While CALEA's annual membership only costs $4,313, the Temple Police Department calculated that for a third-year accreditation, the department spent between $250,000 and $300,000, said Sgt. Allen Teston.
The costs stemmed from flying in and hosting the inspectors, organizing mock inspections and paying the salary of the one full-time staff person assigned to CALEA.
"Chief (Gary) Smith felt we could not justify spending that much money to the citizens of Temple because we didn't see that amount of money gave us that amount of benefit in return," Teston said.
Caufield said he could not calculate how much time he spends on CALEA or how much the department has invested, but he estimated that he spends at least half his time on the clock working on the system.
The time spent on CALEA will decrease after the first accreditation because after that the department will already have everything in place and they will just have to ensure it stays that way, Caufield said.
However, Temple said the program wasn't as worth it after the first two accreditations. Teston said initially the program was beneficial because it forced them to make changes and reassess certain aspects regarding, among others, disciplining officers and handling citizen complaints,
However, after the first two accreditations, the costs of staying accredited outweighed the benefits.
Protection from lawsuits are reason enough for why CALEA more than pays for itself, Caufield said.
Defending a lawsuit can be expensive, but losing one could be even more costly. Because CALEA requires a department to document procedures, the department will already have records of procedures if a lawsuit happens that questions the department's response, Caufield said.
"It doesn't take but one major liability case to pay for itself."
In addition, the procedures in place and standards are vetted by other departments in many instances.
"It's not just I said, 'I think this will be OK,' but agencies throughout the nation said this will be OK." Caufield said CALEA is like car insurance, paid monthly year after year. While it may seem pointless, the car insurance pays for itself in the event of an accident.
In addition, the program has helped the department put everyone on the same page in the case of an emergency.
The officers closer to the street and patrolling the streets are now more aware of the procedures for emergency preparedness beforehand instead of only when an emergency happens, Caufield said.
CALEA is quite time-consuming for the department because not only does the department have to decide on the policies, but they have to check their policies, both Caufield and Teston said.
Teston said the paperwork alone was a mess.
"It's a massive paperwork trail that goes on. It's a lot of duplicating of files for inspection. It's a task," he said. "They almost have you account for every sheet of toilet paper you use. It's so thorough."
Caufield said the notion that CALEA just adds more work to an overloaded department isn't the whole picture.
"If we're overloaded already, shouldn't somebody be making sure that overload doesn't reduce the quality of our work," he said.
As part of the program, the department shares ideas on anything from K-9 handling to crisis management with over 60 agencies in the Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico coalition group based on their department's experiences with different methods.
"Why reinvent the wheel? If somebody has already created that, then share it," Caufield said. "The more information you have coming in, the better quality that information, the better quality you have going to have in the end product,"
CALEA accreditation was the idea of Police Chief Dennis Baldwin, who believes the program will help build up the department's policies, he said.
The department is in the self-assessment phase when it must analyze its own policies and make sure they are being followed, in preparation for a CALEA inspection.
The department plans to finish the self-assessment in the next several months and to have a visit from an on-site inspector by June or July.
After the initial accreditation, the department will be re-evaluated every three years.
Meanwhile, Temple's department is considering other less expensive options.
"We are looking at other avenues of external review of how we do things," Teston said.
Temple is looking at the Texas Police Chiefs Association effort to start a police accreditation program, which Teston anticipates will be less thorough, but will also cost less, yet will still focus on protecting agencies from lawsuits.
Although, Teston said it is possible that Killeen may need the program.
"It may be something that Killeen needs," he said. "It may help them out. It helped us out, but it came to a place where it wasn't beneficial to us."
Caufield said the most significant benefit so far has been that CALEA has made the department more critical, open and proactive about fixing its own practices.
"If you know somebody's going to look, then it's going to get done."
Contact Victor O'Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7468