Juneau Police Chief Greg Browning likes telling anyone who will listen about how good the Juneau Police Department is - and now he has the tangible proof to back up his assertions.
Browning accepted a plaque Dec. 1 recognizing JPD as the first and only law enforcement agency in the state to be accredited by the Alaska Law Enforcement Agency Accreditation Commission. Browning accepted the honor last week in Anchorage at the Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police meeting.
"We're kind of proud that we're the first ones in the state to do it," he said, particularly being recognized in front of the state's top cops last week. "It was a proud moment for me."
To be accredited, the department was required to meet 151 mandatory standards based on national law enforcement standards that were previously selected by a board of 12 police chiefs from around the state. The department was required to apply with ALEAAC for accreditation, do a self-assessment of the department's policies and procedures, and complete a formal assessment with auditors from the outside agency.
"I was very impressed with JPD. I thought that the effort that they put into being ready and being prepared into this onsite assessment was very evident when we got there," said ALEAAC program manager Greg Russell, who was also one of the auditors. "We went through every division, every department, every floor, every resource and looked at it and saw that they had met or exceeded all the (151) standards. They really did set the bar high."
Officials from the ALEAAC plan to attend the Dec. 14 Juneau Assembly meeting to give a presentation on JPD's achievement.
There is a national law enforcement accreditation program that Alaska departments can go through, however they tend to be expensive, cumbersome and not practical for many agencies in the expansive Last Frontier, Russell said. The ALEAAC was established in 2005 and tailor-made for the challenges Alaska law enforcement agencies face, he said.
"Prior to this there hadn't been any standard that you'd been able to recognize professional police departments," Russell said.
There are 28 other states that have law accreditation agencies and ALEAAC is the first one in Alaska. Fairbanks, Sitka and Skagway police departments have applied for and are trying to become accredited through ALEAAC, Russell said.
Providing a law enforcement accreditation system had been a priority of the AACP since at least 2002, Browning said.
"Once the program was put into place I decided that our agency had as good a shot as anybody to pass the accreditation standard," he said.
The department applied for the process on Jan. 25, 2008, and has spent roughly two years working at achieving its goal of accreditation, Browning said. The chief assigned Sgt. David Wrightson to manage the accreditation process. Browning said he, "did a great job."
"Of course the whole department is involved with this to some degree because it is an inspection of the entire operation," he said.
The ALEAAC sent two auditors to Juneau on Oct. 18 to do an assessment of the department. The auditors spent two days comparing policies to standards and reviewed every unit within the department, which included interviewing staff, touring the facility and inspecting all of its equipment.
"It's very expansive and inclusive for a wide, wide variety of virtually everything the police department does," Sgt. Dave Campbell said. "To be able to say here are 151 standards and for us to meet all of those standards and be able to prove all of those standards is significant."
The accreditation means more than just a plaque to hang on the wall or bragging rights over other departments around the state.
"There are a number of real practical advantages to being accredited. For one thing, it indicates that we're a more professional department, which helps with your recruiting," Browning said. "It lowers your liability risk, essentially because it shows your policies and procedures comply with a standard that's set by an independent board of experts and that you've been inspected and certified to comply with these standards."
It took a lot of man-hours and nearly two years to be able to reach this significant achievement, Campbell said.
"I just think it's something that is definitely a source of pride," he said. "I don't think it's just a source of pride for the police department, but I think it should be a source of pride for the whole community."
The achievement of being the first law enforcement agency in Alaska to become accredited is very significant and the entire community has reason to be proud, Russell said. The ALEAAC hopes that eventually all law enforcement agencies in the state will become accredited, he added.
"I hope that other agencies eventually do follow this lead and become accredited also because that will be good for the whole state of Alaska," Browning said. "But for right now it doesn't hurt for Juneau to be the first. We're proud of that."
Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or firstname.lastname@example.org.