Public input sought for UNLPD accreditation

· 4 min read

Public input sought for UNLPD accreditation

Officer Eric Fischer accesses a driver's information during a stop on Oct. 17. The UNL Police Department is seeking accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. A final onsite review begins Nov. 9.
Troy Fedderson | University Communications
Officer Eric Fischer accesses a driver's information during a stop on Oct. 17. The UNL Police Department is seeking accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. A final onsite review begins Nov. 9.

An expansion of duties has led the UNL Police Department to pursue international accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

The three-year process culminates in an onsite assessment by CALEA officials in November. The public is invited to contribute to the assessment through public forums on Nov. 10 and 11, by phone or in writing.

This is the first time the department has sought accreditation.

"In the last decade, the department has grown both in size and in public safety functions to support university programs," UNL Police Chief Owen Yardley said. "Participation in this accreditation process allows us to bring in an outside eye to measure if, as the department has grown, we have continued to follow best practices. It is also a good way to recognize department strengths and identify areas for improvement."

The commission is an independent accrediting authority created in 1979 by four top law enforcement membership associations: International Association of Police Chiefs, National Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives, National Sheriffs' Association and the Police Executive Research Forum. The purpose of CALEA is to improve law enforcement service through a national set of standards.

Only about 4 percent of public safety agencies nationwide have gained accredited status through CALEA. Nebraska agencies to earn the honor include Lincoln and Omaha police departments, Nebraska State Patrol and the Lincoln 911 Center. Big Ten university departments accredited include Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State.

To achieve accreditation, UNLPD must meet 188 CALEA standards.

"The standards include things such as how the department is structured, a review of policies that comply with standards, inspections and reviews to ensure policies are being followed, and required trainings," Yardley said.

A copy of the accreditation standards is available for review at the UNLPD's office, 300 N. 17th St.

In the last decade, duties of the department have grown from traditional police duties to the addition of various public safety functions. Yardley said those new duties include adding a full dispatch center tied to Lincoln's 911 center, overseeing UNL's geographic information systems, handling building access and alarms, and management of the university's closed-circuit television system. Calls from UNL's public safety blue phones will also transition from campus operators to UNLPD's dispatch center later this year.

The first two years of the process feature a self-assessment into whether the department meets CALEA standards. Michael Maas, UNLPD's compliance and accreditation manager, was hired to lead the current self-assessment and future reviews.

"Once accredited, it is an ongoing process to keep everything up to date and make sure a department continues to meet the CALEA standards," Maas said. "Each agency that earns the honor must be recertified every three years."

Other steps in the process have included a complete review of UNLPD policies, procedures and equipment, and an enhancement of officer training. Additional elements of the review include UNLPD's association with local, state and federal public safety agencies.

"One thing we did not have to do was make a substantial investment in facilities or equipment," Yardley said. "We were fortunate that, in 2005, we moved into a new facility designed with all the features of a modern law enforcement agency."

The onsite review of UNLPD begins Nov. 9. The campus community can offer comments about the department during an 11 a.m. Nov. 11 public information session in the Nebraska Union's Regency Room A. Public comments can also be voiced by calling 402-472-3877 from 3 to 5 p.m. Nov. 10, or in writing to the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement, 13575 Heathcote Blvd., Suite 320, Gainesville, Va., 20155.

"It's a point of pride for our department, and it's also a benefit to the public and the university as it will help the department build upon our already good service," Yardley said.