Police pursue professional excellence through accreditation

-A A +A
By Carol A. Clark

In its pursuit of continuous improvement, the Los Alamos Police Department is closing in on the prestigious distinction of becoming an accredited law enforcement agency.

Chief Wayne Torpy explained that besides the special recognition, accreditation provides benefits such as an improved, more effective administrative system, reduced liability potential, enhanced supervisory accountability and greater governmental and community support.

“Through this accreditation process, our intention is to further improve our crime prevention and control capabilities, enhance our management procedures and personnel practices, improve service delivery to our citizens and increase professional confidence in our department,” Torpy said.

In July, Torpy assigned LAPD Staff Services Manager George Coxey with the monumental task of preparing every aspect of the department to be scrutinized by an external assessment team.

Coxey brings significant experience to the job being a former police chief, public safety and emergency planning official and a senior security executive overseas.

“There is a national movement on police agency accreditations," Coxey said. New Mexico is one of several states to develop its own set of 220 standards, which relate specifically to our departments.”

The main purpose of accreditation is to ensure the public that their police department is operating by a professional level of standards, he said.  It also strengthens the department’s policies and procedures and reduces insurance costs. Being an accredited agency also will assist the LAPD when they apply for grants.

The standards are broken into four areas including administration, operations, personnel and training.

“Some of the standards are really quite simple but they are very effective,” Coxey said.

The heart of the accreditation process is the self-assessment phase, in which the department measures its efforts against each standard and prepares a file that documents compliance with each standard.

“Every piece of evidence, every purchase order, every squad car must be in order,” Coxey said. “There are more than 120 policies and procedures alone.”

The audit is anticipated to take place sometime this summer, Coxey said.

He has turned the pursuit of accreditation into a department-wide project. Members of the staff are given standards to review to compare with policies and directives to ensure compliance.

They’re compling the 220 standards together with corresponding directives and proofs in preparation for the three-day audit during which assessors dissect the department from top to bottom to verify local compliance with all applicable standards.

“The whole point is, are we doing what we say we are doing," Coxey said. "The staff inspection process is very important."

Coxey, was born in Chicago. He served in the Army in the Criminal Investigation Division. He also served as an international police advisor in Bosnia, Bulgaria, Romania and Ghana, West Africa.