On November 17, 2011, the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office was officially recognized as an Accredited Law Enforcement Agency by the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission (VLEPSC).
“The accreditation process is important in that while we all believe we are performing to the best standards, it’s nice to have an independent audit to check us,” said Clarke County Sheriff Tony Roper. “The accreditation process provides us with a template to make sure that we are using all of our resources to the best practices standard.”
Roper said that the Accreditation Program evaluates a law enforcement agency’s compliance with over 180 program standards for law enforcement developed over a three-year period by Virginia Law Enforcement professionals to assist agencies in the efficient and effective delivery of service and the protection of individual’s rights. The standards cover all aspects of law enforcement operations including use of force, protection of citizen rights, vehicle pursuits, property and evidence management and patrol and investigative operations.
There are 84 accredited agencies in Virginia, 51 of which are Sheriff’s offices.
According to the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission (VLEPSC), accreditation increases a 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. The accreditation process also enhances community understanding of the law enforcement agency and its role in the community as well as its goals and objectives. An important goal of the process is to improve citizen confidence in the policies and practices of the sheriff’s department.
Roper said the voluntary process required a critical self-review of the agency’s policies, procedures, facilities, and operations. As part of the accreditation process, the Clarke County Sheriff’s Department office prepared proofs of compliance for each of the accreditation standards for an outside audit and review. The result of this review was presented to the VLEPSC Board for final analysis, and the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office was awarded “Accredited” status.
“The process is pretty intensive in that our department has been collecting this data for several years and there is a specific protocol for the cataloging of the ‘proofs,’” Sheriff Roper said. “Additionally, we have had to ‘entertain’ the assessors while they conducted their review with many staff hours.”
Roper says that although the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office has always considered itself to be very professional in its delivery of law enforcement services, the accreditation process allows an independent review of the department’s operations and assures the citizens of Clarke County that its Sheriff’s Office is conforming to the current state of the art in law enforcement.
The accreditation process looks at both administrative practices as well as operational practices of officers according to VLEPSC. While accreditation requires that agency’s policies and procedures are in written form and are available to all agency personnel at all times, the process also compels officers to operate within specific guidelines in order to retain its accreditation. Accreditation policies also address officer safety issues and provide for adequate training and equipment of the officers.
Roper said on Friday he was very pleased to have achieved accreditation and believes that the process has improved his department.
“There were a couple of surprises during the evaluation, things that we discovered in the process that we were lacking,” Roper said. “although the issues that we encountered really had nothing to do operations, but more with administrative processes.”