The Columbia County Sheriff's Office is undergoing its tri-annual assessment and the public is encouraged to voice their opinions.
An assessment team for the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc. arrived Saturday to begin the inspection of sheriff's office's policy and procedures, management, operations and support services.
A favorable assessment is a highly coveted recognition of law enforcement excellence.
As part of the on-site assessment, the public is invited to offer comments at a public information session at 7 p.m. Monday at the Evans Government Complex auditorium on Ronald Reagan Drive.
"(This) is very important," said Maj. Mike Adams, who runs the sheriff's office Management Services Bureau, which oversees the Office of Professional Standards, the division responsible for meeting the CALEA standards. "We go through an assessment every three years. We were initially accredited in 1996 and were re-accredited in 1999. Now, it's time again and it's important because it shows that we are meeting standards that are internationally recognized."
CALEA is a volunteer organization composed of members from the International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Sheriff's Association, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the Police Executive Research Forum.
The organization has established a voluntary process of accreditation based on a list of standards the group feels is essential to proper law enforcement.
"Right now, there are 443 standards that make up the (CALEA) standards manual," Adams said. "It depends on the size of the agency as to how many standards have to be met. We're a C-size organization with A-size being the smallest and D-size being the largest. For us, there are 335 mandatory standards that we have to meet, and then there's around 80 more non-mandatory standards we have to meet voluntarily. All in all, there are 411 standards we're required to comply with to maintain our accreditation."
Three CALEA assessors began reviewing the files at the sheriff's office, interviewing staff and visiting offices Saturday. In all, they were trying to make sure that the department is complying with the established standards.
The assessment team is composed of law enforcement practitioners from out-of-state agencies similar to the Columbia County agencies they are assessing. Once the assessors complete their review, they will report back to a CALEA commission, which will then decide whether the sheriff's office will be re-accredited.
An important factor in the assessment will be the feedback the team receives from the public meeting Monday.
Anyone not able to attend the meeting may voice compliments or complaints with the assessors by calling the sheriff's office accreditation manager, Sgt. Pamela Goddard, at 541-9476 from 1 to 5 p.m.Tuesday.
Persons wishing to offer written comments may do so by writing: Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc., 10306 Eaton Place Suite 320, Fairfax, VA 22030-2201.
Comments made at the public meeting and by telephone will be limited to 10 minutes and must address the sheriff's office's ability to comply with CALEA's standards.
A copy of CALEA's standards for accreditation is available at the sheriff's office in Appling.
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