Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle has something new to brag about.
In January, Whittle traveled to the National Sheriff's Association Winter Convention in New Orleans, where he was awarded the association's highest honor -- the Triple Crown.
"It is a pretty big deal," said Louise Taylor, coordinator of meetings and expositions for the association.
To be eligible, a sheriff's office must achieve simultaneous accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement, the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections, and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.
Of the 3,084 sheriff's offices nationwide, the Triple Crown was awarded to 28 agencies, Taylor said.
The sheriff's office earned its first accreditation from CALEA, which evaluates the entire sheriff's office. Whittle said the 911 dispatch center, since it is operated by the sheriff's office, is included in the accreditation, though the sheriff's office also has earned a separate CALEA 911 center accreditation, which does not count toward the Triple Crown.
The Columbia County Detention Center earned its first CAC accreditation in August 2007 and the sheriff's office medical staff was first accredited by the NCCHC in March 2007.
"Accreditation is a good guidebook, so to speak, for professional service, that's the bottom line," Whittle said. "I'm proud of what my folks did. I'm proud of the sheriff's office. I'm proud of the detention center. Trust me, it is not an easy thing to be accredited."
Taylor called the Triple Crown her association's highest award.
"It is definitely a big deal," Taylor said. "It is hard to get accredited from these agencies. (The Triple Crown award) is very, very good."
Whittle said the award and the accreditation it takes to earn it are proof that the sheriff's office is using best practices in every aspect of its operation.
"There's not a portion of this agency that is not affected by this Triple Crown," Whittle said. "Every portion of our agency has to be involved in the accreditation process or we wouldn't have the (Triple) Crown. ... It is the dedication of these folks here that does it."
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