The University Police Department at SUNY Fredonia has earned the New York State Law Enforcement Accreditation Program designation - the gold standard in law enforcement - from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.
"The process was really extensive and exhausting, but so well worth it," said Chief Ann Burns. "The assessment team was unanimous in its recommendation. We passed with flying colors, and on our first try, too."
To be considered for accreditation, a police department must undergo a rigorous on-site examination of 133 files, or standards of operation, as established by the Division of Criminal Justice Services. That examination includes a review of all written policies that encompass virtually every aspect of department operations, such as tracking the flow of cases. Also included are a physical review and inspection of facilities and examination of procedures that govern their use.
Patrolmen Scott Martin (left) and Benjamin Miller display the New York State Law Enforcement Accreditation plaque that has been mounted in the front lobby of the University Police office in Gregory Hall.
Burns praised veteran patrolmen Benjamin Miller, a SUNY Fredonia alumnus, and Scott Martin, who served as program co-managers and worked diligently over an 18-month period reviewing all files. They have 33 years of combined service in the department.
"You have to have the appropriate policies and procedures in place and you have to be able to prove that you followed them in actual cases," Burns explained. A mission statement and set of goals and objectives also had to be presented.
The department experienced three mock assessments that brought "different sets of eyes" to campus to examine different components of the department, Burns said. They identified files that needed revision or additions in order to be in full LEAP compliance. The two-person accreditation team examined the department in January.
Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace, whose agency has been accredited for many years, said the designation assures that a law enforcement agency meets or exceeds the highest standards set forth by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.
"It's an acclaimed program; unfortunately only a small number of departments make the commitment to pursue the law enforcement accreditation. It is something to be very proud of accomplishing," Gerace said. "It speaks highly of the law enforcement agency, and I congratulate Chief Burns and her staff for their hard work and dedication to this effort."
SUNY Fredonia's University Police Department, the only applicant to receive accreditation in the most recent application round, joins the Jamestown City Police Department and Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office as the only law enforcement agencies in Chautauqua County with the designation. Only 25 percent of nearly 600 law enforcement agencies in New York State and eight SUNY campuses have the accreditation, which is voluntary.
The joint effort by everyone within the University Police Department was a crucial factor in accomplishing the goal of LEAP accreditation, Burns said. "We really could not have done this without the support and assistance from all the officers and lieutenants within the department."
Both patrolmen joined Burns, now in her 32nd year in the department, in receiving the accreditation plaque in a formal Division of Criminal Justice Services ceremony held March 20 in Albany. The department is staffed by 15 sworn officers and one civilian employee.
The accreditation remains in effect for five years.