An accreditation program has long been recognized as a means of maintaining the highest standards of professionalism. Accreditation is the certification by an independent reviewing authority that an entity has met specific requirements and prescribed standards. Schools, universities, and hospitals are some of the most well-known organizations that are required to maintain accreditation. Law enforcement agencies in New Jersey can now attain accredited status through the NJSACOP Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission. Accreditation is a progressive and time-proven way of helping law enforcement agencies calculate and improve their overall performances. Participating agencies conduct a thorough self-analysis to determine how existing operations can be adapted to meet these objectives. When the procedures are in place, a team of trained assessors verifies that applicable standards have been successfully implemented. Accreditation status represents a significant professional achievement. Accreditation acknowledges the implementation of policies and procedures that are conceptually sound and operationally effective.
The benefits of accreditation are many and will vary from agency to agency. Accreditation increases the law enforcement agency's ability to prevent and control crime through more effective and efficient delivery of law enforcement services to the community it serves. Accreditation enhances community understanding of the law enforcement agency and its role in the community, as well as its goals and objectives. Citizen confidence in the policies and practices of the agency is increased. Accreditation, in conjunction with the philosophy of community policing, commits the agency to a broad range of programs (such as crime prevention) that directly benefit the public. Accreditation creates a forum in which police and citizens work together to control and prevent crime. The partnership will help citizens to understand the challenges that confront law enforcement. Law enforcement will, in turn, receive clear direction from the community about its expectations. Thus, a common set of goals and objectives will be arrived at and implemented.
For the Chief, accreditation increases cooperation and coordination with other law enforcement agencies and other branches of the criminal justice system. The accreditation process requires an in-depth review of every aspect of the agency's organization, management, operations, and administration including:
- Establishment of agency goals and objectives with provisions for periodic updating;
- Re-evaluation of whether agency resources are being used in accord with agency goals, objectives, and mission;
- Re-evaluation of agency policies and procedures, especially as documented in the agency's written directive system;
- Correction of internal deficiencies and inefficiencies before they become public problems;
- The opportunity to reorganize without the appearance of personal attacks.
The accreditation standards provide norms against which agency performance can be measured and monitored over time. Accreditation provides the agency with a continuous flow of Commission distributed information about exemplary policies, procedures, and projects. Accreditation provides objective measures to justify decisions related to budget requests and personnel policies. Accreditation serves as a yardstick to measure the effectiveness of the agency's programs and services. The services provided are defined, and uniformity of service is assured. Accreditation streamlines operations, providing more consistency and more effective deployment of agency manpower.
Accreditation requires that agency policies and procedures are in written form and are available to all agency personnel at all times. Accreditation assures employees that every aspect of the agency's personnel system is in accord with professional standards and that the system is both fair and equitable. The agency is compelled to operate within specific guidelines. It is accountable to the Commission. The agency must stay in compliance with the standards set forth by the Commission in order to retain its accreditation. The morale of the agency is enhanced by increasing the employees' confidence in the effectiveness and efficiency of their own agency. Operations become more streamlined and consistent.
Accreditation policies address officer safety issues and provide for adequate training and equipment for the officers. Accreditation is a coveted award that symbolizes professionalism, excellence, and competence. Employees will take pride in their agency, knowing that it represents the very best in law enforcement.
The Hamilton Police Division is in the process of seeking second reaccreditation recognition through the NJSACOP Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission.