Buckhannon Police Chief Matt Gregory gives council an update at a meeting in late 2020. / File photo by Katie Kuba

Buckhannon Police Department’s assessment to attain accreditation now underway

BUCKHANNON – On Friday, the Buckhannon Police Department started their web assessment to determine whether they qualify for accreditation through the Commission for the Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies.

If the BPD attains accreditation through CALEA, it would be only the second department in the Mountain State to have done so, following the Parkersburg Police Department.

As they began the web assessment Friday, Buckhannon Police Chief Matt Gregory said the department has been working on the self-assessment period leading up to the web assessment for three years.

“During the self-assessment, you spend time making sure that all of your policies are in compliance with the CALEA standards and there’s over 180 different standards, so I have to make sure that we address each of those and now we’re in compliance with the policies,” Gregory said.

The policies extend over all operations in the department, including administration, field operations, investigations, the way reports are done, the way evidence is stored, all human resources elements and how officers are paid benefits, the police chief explained.

“There are several phases of review that looks at the activities that you’ve done through self-assessment to come into compliance with the standards because not only do you have to ensure that your policies are compliant with the standard, but you have to have proofs showing that your policies are complying, and proofs can be anything from a picture of your equipment to copies of reports,” Gregory said. “We’ve had videos of arrests and situations from body camera footage and we have a video of our evidence room showing how it operates.”

Gregory said there are now three phases the department must go through to achieve accreditation including a web assessment, an on-site assessment and appearing before the CALEA commission. The Buckhannon Police Department started their web assessment Friday, Feb. 19.

“We will have a have a couple of assessors that are assigned to evaluate our assessment, which is what I’ve been uploading to almost on a daily basis for the last three years, where I uploaded the policies and the proofs and I think the last time I checked, I had like 1,500 uploads, just to come into compliance with the assessment,” Gregory said.

The web phase will continue through Feb. 27, and then the department will undergo an on-site assessment.

“The assessors will come here, and really do the same thing that the web assessments did, except they will physically go through the files, they’ll go on ride-alongs, and there’s actually a public hearing that they’ll have,” Gregory explained. “They will interview myself, they will interview other officers or other individuals. We anticipate having them tour City Hall, the Comm Center and other public safety partners that we work with on a regular basis.”

The on-site assessment will take place April 5 through April 7, and the last phase will take place in July.

“I’ll have to appear in front of a panel of the CALEA commission to review the assessments and answer any additional questions the commission may have regarding our assessment, and that’s scheduled to be mid-July,” Gregory said.

Gregory said only one other police department in West Virginia that has accreditation, and that’s Parkersburg.

“They said, ‘don’t discount the self-assessment process, don’t rush it,’ because the true value of the process is taking the time and really self-assessing and really learning,” Gregory said. “You know where your weaknesses are, where you can fix them, where you can better focus your resources, and I have found that to be very true throughout this entire process. I feel that a lot of our operations we’ve been able to enhance, and we’ve been able to streamline a lot of our capabilities with the police department.”

According to its website, the purposes of CALEA are to improve the delivery of public safety services by maintaining a body of professional standards and enhancing accountability, transparency and integrity throughout law enforcement agencies. In addition, accredited law enforcement agencies have stronger support from government officials and reduced risk and liability exposure.

Read all about CALEA accreditation here.

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