At the Manassas Police Department, there are 10 file drawers full of documents that prove the law enforcement agency is doing its job correctly.
“They are absolutely chock full,” said Lt. Margaret Carroll. “You couldn’t fit another thing in those drawers.”
The documents enabled the Manassas Police Department to be reaccredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies on Dec. 4.
The Manassas Police Department was first accredited by CALEA in 2001, and must be recertified every three years.
For Carroll, the accreditation manager for the agency, this translates to a lot of work.
There are 379 standards that the agency must fulfill in order to remain accredited by CALEA. Many of the standards consist of more than one requirement, bringing the total number of requirements to about 900, Carroll said.
These standards range from making sure that searches are conducted by an officer of the same sex as the suspect, to proving that a confidential informant was searched before a suspect was arrested.
“An absolutely tremendous amount of effort goes into this,” Carroll said.
About 2 percent of law enforcement agencies are accredited by CALEA. Though many smaller agencies don’t participate in the program, about 21 percent of all law enforcement officers in the country work for an agency that is accredited by CALEA.
“This status is important to our professional standing in the region,” Manassas Police Chief John Skinner said in a press release. “The bar has been raised for the standards and expectations of the department.”
The accreditation process also makes the agency less likely to be sued, Carroll said.
“CALEA will tell you that it limits our liability from a risk management standpoint,” she said. “When plaintiffs find out that you are an accredited agency, they back off from a lawsuit because they know you comply with standards.”
For many officers, being accredited means more than just fewer lawsuits, Carroll said.
“From an officer’s standpoint, it firms up your general orders,” she said. “It’s about having pride in your job.”
Though Skinner and Carroll accepted an award at Monday’s City Council meeting, the real culmination of the department’s three-year effort came earlier this month in Austin, Texas. Skinner, Carroll and members of the Manassas Police command staff were in Austin from Nov. 30 to Dec. 5.
“I took the most pride in this project when I went to the hearing in Austin and they asked questions about our agency,” Carroll said. “Our hearing was absolutely flawless. They had nothing but praise for our agency and how we do our jobs.”