The Clovis Police Department is taking a giant step to become more transparent.
This month, the New Mexico Law Enforcement Professional Standards Council — the accrediting authority for the state — is evaluating the department’s application.
It’s the first step in a two-year process to attain accreditation.
Chief Steve Sanders said it’s long overdue and accreditation will enrich the department on many levels.
“It creates public trust, it creates transparency,” Sanders said. “It alleviates the perception that we’re a corrupt organization that just makes up the rules as we go along... it’s not the ‘good old boys club’, because it’s not who you know.”
Tops on the list are standardizing and updating procedures and policies and creating more accountability.
Once those elements are complete, there’s the added bonus of decreasing liability for the department and the city.
Officers, particularly new ones, Sander said, will benefit from clear training guidelines, policies and disciplinary procedures.
And one of the greatest benefits, Sanders said, will be bringing in an outside entity to evaluate Clovis.
If the Clovis department’s application is accepted, Sanders said they will begin drafting policies and procedures to mirror the 219 required for accreditation.
Policies affect everything from hiring to training and conducting operations, to how filing is done.
During the two-years, the NMLEPSC will evaluate the department’s policies and procedures to ensure they meet standards and will do site inspections, quiz officers and check files.
Once accreditation is achieved, there will be annual self-evaluations and every fifth year the department will have to be re-accredited.
Sanders said state level accreditation is a relatively new possibility for smaller departments.
“The police chiefs before me have done a good portion of the work,” he said, explaining efforts have been made along the way to follow the model of accreditation. However it wasn’t until about six years ago, with the inception of the NMLEPSC, that accreditation became affordable.
Previously, only the largest police departments were accredited through expensive national programs.
“It’s not that police chiefs didn’t want to be accredited, we’re just a little too big too be small and a little to small to be big,” he said.
The accreditation program started in 2002. The NMLEPSC is the New Mexico Municipalities League, New Mexico Association of Chief’s of Police and the New Mexico Association of Counties Sheriffs Affiliate.
In 2004, the Portales Police Department became the first NMLEPSC accredited department in the state, according to Diane Lang, the Municipality League’s liaison to the Police Chief’s Association.
There are currently eight accredited agencies in the state and another nine working toward accreditation.
Having an accredited police department is a plus for a community and, “The programs positively effect the communities because they’re positively affecting the departments,” Lang said.
Accredited police departments in the state:
• Santa Fe