Bluffton Police Department seeks national recertification

astice@islandpacket.comNovember 12, 2011 

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Almost three years after the Bluffton Police Department earned national accreditation -- the "gold standard of law enforcement," its chief said -- assessors will return to make sure the department still meets their standards.

The inspection by a team from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies will include a chance for the public to comment on the department's performance at a meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the law enforcement center.

The independent organization was created by police groups to elevate national law-enforcement standards, according to its website.

Nationally accredited agencies must be recertified every three years. The assessors, who include law enforcement officers from out-of-state agencies, will check the department's compliance with 487 guidelines -- such as administration and vehicle chases.

The accreditation earned in 2009 required two years of planning and preparation. That examination included perfect marks for retooling department policies to match the commission's guidelines.

The recertification would prove Bluffton police have followed through on the pledge to uphold those standards, Chief David McAllister said.

"It is the only way that we prove we do what we say we do," he said.

The Beaufort Police Department became the first nationally accredited law enforcement agency in the county in 2007, but it opted not to spend $7,000 in fees and manpower to become re-accredited in 2010.

Also in 2010, the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office earned its certification after hiring two former Beaufort police chiefs to manage its bid.

McAllister said the accreditation is worth the money, which he said averages $3,500 a year.

He is fond of comparing the distinction to doctors and colleges: People wouldn't go to either if they weren't accredited.

"I don't think you should give guns and badges to places that don't adhere to the highest standards," he said.

National accreditation makes the department less likely to face lawsuits, McAllister said. It also increases its chances when applying for grants and other funding.

Residents who want to comment or learn more about accreditation but who can't make it to the meeting can call 843-706-4516 from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesday to speak with assessors.

Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.

Related content:

Beaufort County Sheriff's Office earns national accreditation, Aug. 20, 2010 Sheriff's Office revamps policies for national certification, Nov. 22, 2009

Bluffton's top cop pushes neighborhood police program, April 4, 2009

Bluffton PD gets national accreditation, March 24, 2009

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