NEWBERRY – The City of Newberry Police Department has been re-accredited for the seventh time, making it the 18th year in a row the department has maintained its accredited status.
The South Carolina Accreditation Program (SCPAC) is an initiative of the South Carolina Police Chief’s Association and the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association. The accreditation program is a purely voluntary program that promotes professional improvement amongst the participating departments.
The Newberry Police Department received its first accreditation in March 2000. They are one of the only nine municipalities in the state to hold this status.
Lieutenant Michael Kennedy, training officer and accreditation manager within the police department, said the purpose of being an accredited division was to create “standards” or policies and procedures that provide the highest level of service to the communities that the agencies serve as well as to increase the agencies’ professionalism.
The objective of the SCPAC is to:
Increase law enforcement agency capabilities;
Provide better departmental management by establishing precise, written policies and procedures;
Increase agency effectiveness and efficiency of services delivered;
Provide access to the latest methods developed by law enforcement practitioners;
Promote cooperation and coordination among law enforcement agencies and other elements of the criminal justice system;
Increase citizen and employee confidence in the practices of the agency.
An example of one of the standards/policies that the city follows as part of the accreditation process is with communications, Kennedy said.
“We have to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to receive calls for service,” Kennedy said.
Providing documentation that an agency is practicing these standards is also a requirement. For the communications standard, Kennedy said they also must rely on the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office (NCSO) for help in completing this as they run the city’s dispatch.
Although the NCSO is not accredited, they are instrumental Kennedy said in the success of day-to-day operations as they have to follow certain practices such as having a backup generator and always having someone to manage dispatch to receive emergency notifications for service.
“We have to provide proof that we are always available to the community,” Kennedy said.
Phases of Accreditation
Every three years, Police Chief Roy McClurkin said the department prepares for the first of three phases of the accreditation process – the self-assessment phase. The self-assessment usually occurs in July or August in the previous year to the second phase, which is a “mock assessment” that typically occurs in October.
Kennedy said unfortunately due to unforeseen events in this assessment period, the process did not begin until the middle of November.
To prepare for the mock assessment, the department begins gathering proofs of compliance to the accepted standards. Kennedy said there were a total of 235 standards in the SCPAC program that were applicable to the Newberry Police Department. The standards are designed to be attainable by all agencies regardless of their size and fiscal capabilities.
Kennedy said the standards are considered best practices in each area of law enforcement to include management, administration, operations and support services. The standards reflect what must be done. However, they do not specify the way the agency is to meet the requirement of the standard. This is left up to the agency itself.
“Our entire policy manual is built around accreditation,” Kennedy said. “After 18 years its engrained in our department.”
Each of the standards required for accreditation are mandatory and a non-compliance finding on any of them would cost the department its accreditation status. McClurkin said that this process could not be accomplished by their department alone as they rely on and cooperate with outside agencies to make this happen.
These outside agencies include the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office, Newberry County Detention Center, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, Newberry County Communications Center and other departments within city government.
All of these areas, McClurkin said are covered in the accreditation process and must meet the strict standards.
City Manager Matt DeWitt said the citizens of the City of Newberry should be proud of the rigorous standards upheld by city law enforcement officials.
“These ensure our department is always conducting business in the most professional manner possible and provides our citizens one of the safest communities in which to live in South Carolina,” he said.
Once the self-assessment phase is complete, McClurkin then contacts the accreditation council to request a “mock assessment.” The assessment is conducted by independent assessors to ensure that the city is in compliance with all of the standards and helps them to prepare for the final, on-site assessment.
Throughout the mock assessment, suggestions are offered to the department on how they could better show compliance to the standards.
This year’s mock assessment was completed in January 2018 by five independent assessors from across the state.
“These assessors looked at every one of the 235 standards and found no significant variations and recommended only minor corrections to our proofs,” Kennedy said.
Following the minor corrections made, the Newberry Police Department requested the on-site assessment with consisted of two new assessors to provide the final audit of policies and proofs to ensure compliance.
The accreditation council voted unanimously on March 2 to re-accredit the department for another three years.
McClurkin said with this re-accreditation, the citizens of the City of Newberry could be proud of their police department.
“This accreditation proves that we adhere to policy,” McClurkin said. “It is our goal to be professional and be the best police department for the citizens that we serve. Each member of this police department should be commended for the work that they did to allow us to be accredited for the seventh time. It was a complete team effort.”