Mustang Police Department became a verified agency at the June 1 city council meeting by the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police.
“The benefit (of becoming verified) is having an outside set of eyes come in and examine all your policies and procedures and make sure you’re compliant,” Chief Rob Groseclose said.
Kevin McCullough, Oklahoma Law Enforcement Accreditation Program vice chairman, has worked with the department for about 15 years. He also works with nearly all the municipal police departments in Oklahoma.
McCullough said Mustang’s department has good leadership and does not have a high employee turnover.
The association established an accreditation program for law enforcement
20 years ago.
Oklahoma was the first state to develop a certification program, as well. About 40 other states have programs similar to the accreditation process.
If a law enforcement agency would like to become fully accredited, they must meet more than 160 nationally-recognized standards. Typically, large agencies become fully accredited, as it takes extensive time to complete the process, McCullough said.
Small police departments usually have one to four officers, who don’t have the resources larger agencies do, he added.
The association then discerned they needed a first step in the accreditation process.
Verification is the first step; certification is the second and accreditation is the last.
Agencies become verified when their policies and procedures meet statutory requirements. In 2016, agencies had to have these written directives to ensure safety and liability.
State statutes that address the policy requirements are Title 11 and 22.
Agencies must meet requirements in 13 different areas. Some of the areas consist of the institution’s policies on arrest, use of force, handling people with mental illnesses and more.
Departments then email the association their policies, and an assessor evaluates them. The assessor is looking to ensure the agency has a written directive, not necessarily what the policy should say, McCullough said.
To become certified, agencies must meet a set of national standards, which are updated every one to two years to align with court cases. The association compares the department’s policies to the standards to determine if they meet them.
A group of three to six people from outside departments also spend time at each agency, interviewing the leadership and researching the operations. During analysis of operations, the group sees how the agency serves the public.
“It’s a pretty stressful process for the agency going through it,” McCullough said.
The group also looks for areas the agency can improve.
“(It) makes sure our law enforcement officers are utilizing best practices and adhering to the law because you don’t want your law enforcers breaking the same laws they’re enforcing,” he said.
McCullough also added the best practices keep accountability in mind for the public’s relationship with its officers.
“Our best practices come from suggestions, concerns and issues our citizens bring to us,” he said.
Each agency has the choice of determining how many steps they would like to complete.
McCullough said the accreditation process helps law enforcement behave as professionals. He said he encourages all agencies to at least become verified.
Groseclose said as soon as time and resources allow, his department will pursue the last steps further.
There are more than 400 law enforcement agencies across the state. Of those, 15 are verified, five are certified and 16 are accredited.
Only two agencies throughout Canadian County are verified.
“We’re all in this together,” McCullough said. “We want to be better.”
Agencies can call 405-657-1408 for more information.