A handful of Columbia County residents and sheriff's office employees voiced opinions about the sheriff's office at a Monday meeting with an assessment team as part of the sheriff's office's tri-annual re-accreditation process.
The response to the public meeting was overwhelmingly positive.
"We are very appreciative of the support they give to our community and to Columbia County," said Jean Garniewitz, of the West Lake Property Owners Association. "I am very thrilled to have them be very supportive to us and our community. I think they are a very professional group of individuals."
The sheriff's office is seeking re-accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc. The 3-member team was sent to do an on-site inspection of the sheriff's office's policies and procedures, management, operations and support services.
The organization has established a voluntary process of accreditation based on a list of standards the group feels is essential to proper law enforcement. Because the sheriff's office is a C-size organization, it is required to meet 335 of the CALEA's 443 standards and another 80 voluntarily.
The assessment team is made up of law enforcement practitioners from similar, but out-of-state agencies. The team is led by Cal State Fullerton Police Department Chief Judi D. King. She is assisted by Commander Daniel Brennan, of Lakewood Police Department, Lakewood, Colo., and Major Robert Stack, of Lexington Metro Police Department, Lexington, Ky.
Jim Frye has worked with the sheriff's office and raised his son from elementary through high school in Columbia County. He commended the DARE program at the meeting, saying that his son still knows the names of all the DARE officers that visited and served his schools and will still recognize each of them.
"I am always amazed at the various situations where individuals involved and handled from the private on beat to the road patrol, in a fair impartial manner, and in a positive and informative manner," Frye said. "Kids do not fear the police here. They respect them as the kind of adults they want to grow up to be one day."
The team reviews the sheriff's office's files, interviews staff, visits offices and verifies that the department is complying with standards. Once the assessors finish their review, they will report back to the commission for a final decision on the sheriff's office re-accreditation.
"My experiences with the Columbia County Sheriff's Office have been extremely rewarding," said Dennis Hoyt, 3-year chaplain for the department.
Anyone not able to attend the meeting may submit comments in writing to: Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc., 10306 Eaton Place, Suite 320, Fairfax, VA 22030-2201.
Bob Cipperly is an internal auditor and has worked with lots of county and city police departments the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the NIS, among others. He is also the vice president of the Homeowners Association in Walton Woods.
"It is a pleasure watching this group of people work," Cipperly said. "They are probably the most professional police force I have ever seen anywhere."
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