Ewing Police Accreditation
The Ewing Police Department, led by Police Chief John P. Stemler III, is currently working on the process of receiving accreditation from the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police (NJSACOP). As part of this process, a team from NJSACOP will conduct an on-site assessment of the department starting Monday, March 26th to “examine all aspects of the policies and procedures, management, operations and support services,” according to the department press release.
Accreditation is a process common to many institutions such as universities and hospitals as a means to ensurebest practices, which helps instill faith in the public and other members of the community. Best practices usually entail standards that would ensure that an organization is working efficiency and ethically, amongst other concerns. To get accredited, an institution has to undergo a thorough regular check to confirm that best practice policies are being following.
The introduction of accreditation to law enforcement agencies is fairly recent, however Stemler described accreditation as “a highly prized recognition of law enforcement professional excellence.” Within New Jersey, NJSACOP is in charge of accrediting law agencies, and has previously accredited the Hopewell, Princeton, and West Windsor Police Departments, according to Ewing Police Department captain David Muller.
In fact, Ewing was one of the first departments to get accredited. “It was something that the chief at the time wanted, and we were able to do it successfully in 2007. We had our reassessment in 2011, and then shortly after that we lost touch with the program because we had some leadership change within the department. Because we had layoffs, we did not keep our focus on maintaining the standards of accreditation, so we got away from it. Now, under Chief Stemler and Mayor Steinmann, we wanted to re-obtain that status as an accredited agency, so we began the process all over again in 2016,” Muller said.
The renewed efforts for accreditation are quite intensive, involving 105 standards that the department must comply with. After an initial on-site review, which will be taking place on March 26th and 27th, the department will come in front of the NJSACOP board for a final evaluation before receiving the results. “You have to prove that you’re doing the things you say you are in your policies, so there’s a lot of written files that have to be maintained, and our policies have to reflect certain standards. To keep accreditation, we’re required to go to this process every three years,” Muller said. During the on-site assessment, the NJSACOP will be accepting up to five-minute long comments from the public regarding the department’s “ability to comply with NJSACOP standards,” the press release said.
Muller went into more detail on the 105 standards. “It’s a very wide gambit. It covers everything from the requirement of having a backup generator system to ensure that we have power for operation during a storm or blackout, all the way to how you handle arrestees and how you respond to calls. It also includes the record you keep regarding your evidence, hiring requirements, the selection process. It covers everything you can think of basically that’s involved in this job nowadays, even from a technology standpoint, with the use of computers and backup records,” he said.
“It’s very involved and stringent. They review our physical files that show our standards and prove that we actually do what we say we are doing in our standards, and they go through our facility and look at our equipment and talk to our officers and supervisors in the department. At the end of it, if we have complied with all or a majority of these standards, we’ll go in front of the accreditation board with the results of our on-site assessment, and then we are deemed accredited or not,” he added.
If the department receives accreditation, they will have to send annual reports before their three-year renewal, showcasing evidence of following accreditation standards. “We have to have what they call proofs, which would be any kind of actual documentation that proves that we are adhering to those standards. This is an ongoing process, it really has to be maintained regularly, it’s not like we go through the assessment and then we’re done with it. We have to stay on top of it between the assessments to ensure that we have proper documentation and to maintain it properly,” Muller said.
Though the process of accreditation is complicated and extensive, Muller listed the benefits of receiving the credentials. “This lets the public and the political leadership know that we’re doing things right. It helps grow public confidence for the agency, and it quite honestly does straighten a lot of things out that we might have missed over the years. There’s certain intricacies in different policies that make you look at your whole operation and, it’s just a best practices policy, it ensures that you’re doing things properly, and that you’re maintaining your records properly and doing all the things that are required,” Muller said.
“I think our insurance company is happy with it too, I think that there’s a potential break on insurance, I think there’s a reduced premium if we are an accredited agency, because it would be expected that we have less liability and potential lawsuits, or less potential problems if we are accredited,” Muller said.
Overall, Muller believes that getting accredited will help the Ewing Police Department better serve the community. “Accreditation ensures that we’re up on the latest requirements or standards from the state, society, and this accreditation program. It just ensures that we’re doing the proper things the right way, and we’re documenting everything the way we should be. It ensures that all of our files are properly maintained as far as evidence and record keeping, so it should instill some confidence in the stakeholders we have here in the community, from businesses to residents to civic groups,” he said.
After the on-site assessment and the NJSACOP evaluation, the Ewing Police Department expects to hear back in the next month or two on the result of the process, with the timeline dependent on the volume of other agencies attempting to gain accreditation.
View Online Publication
View Print Publication