Police scrutinize policies and procedures

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By Carol A. Clark

Nearing the end of a lengthy accreditation process, Los Alamos Police Department officials recently participated in a special two-day policy validation session earlier this month.

“The point is to ensure not only that we have the policies and standards in place, but that the supervisors from every one of our departments understands and implements them correctly,” Chief Wayne Torpy said during an interview Wednesday.

Law enforcement accreditation is a distinction held by few agencies across the nation. Achieving professional excellence through national accreditation provides benefits such as improved, more effective administrative systems, reduced liability potential, enhanced supervisory accountability and greater governmental and community support, he said.

“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.

Deputy Chief Kevin Purtymun explained that Staff Services Manager George Coxey, a former police chief and international security consultant, was called upon in July 2008 to revise the department’s policy manual, which will be put under a microscope by an external assessment team prior to accreditation.

Sgt. Fred Rascon has assisted Coxey in heading up the process.

“The policy review session insured that our current practices reflect any policy changes that have been made policies. It also gave the supervisors an opportunity to provide input into the process,” Purtymun said.

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

There are more than 100 policies and procedures involved in the accreditation process, Capt. Randy Foster said, adding that New Mexico is one of several states with its own set of standards.

“The standards are broken into four areas including administration, operations, personnel and training,” Foster said. “Some of the standards are really quite simple but very effective.”

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 documenting compliance, he said.

“Every piece of evidence, every purchase order, every patrol car must be in order,” Purtymun said.

The pursuit of accreditation is a department-wide effort. Each member of the staff is given a general order to prepare with policy directives and proofs.

They are compiling some 220 standards together with corresponding directives and proofs in preparation for a three-day external audit during which assessors will scrutinize the department from top to bottom, verifying required policies are in place and being complied with by all concerned. The assessors will examine every aspect of the agency’s policies, procedures, management, operations and support services in detail.

“Our current police and jail building renovations play an important role in the accreditation, enabling us to better meet the standards, especially in the jail area,” Purtymun said.

The audit is expected to take place in late summer or early fall.