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Buckhannon Police Department officers earned Police Star Medals in recognition of their commitment to CALEA principles at city council's Nov. 18 meeting. Pictured, from left, are chief Matt Gregory, Sgt. Darin Hissam, Sgt. Mark Stewart, Sgt. Marshall O'Connor, Sgt. William Courtney, administrative assistant Tim Smith, Sgt. Tom Posey, Lt. Doug Loudin, mayor Robbie Skinner, Patrolman First Class Angel McCauley and councilman CJ Rylands. / Photos by Katie Kuba

City council commends police department on accreditation with special recognition ceremony

BUCKHANNON – When the Buckhannon Police Department celebrated achieving full national accreditation in mid-November, city police chief Matt Gregory proudly displayed a plaque as evidence of the department’s commitment to professional excellence.

The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, known as CALEA, awarded the plaque – and the honor attached to it — in July 2021 following an on-site assessment in April, making the BPD only the second police department to have attained the honor in West Virginia.  

And while that plaque may be a concrete reminder of having achieved the gold standard in law enforcement, Gregory emphasized the award “isn’t just something you hang on the wall and forget about.”

“I have said this many times before: Accreditation is not about the destination, but about the journey itself,” the police chief said. “It is an ongoing pathway to professional excellence because at the end of the day, and what lies at the very core of what we do as police officers, is that the standards of CALEA are the right thing to do. It’s the kind of service that the people of this community deserve.”

At Buckhannon City Council’s Nov. 18 meeting, city council congratulated the BPD on having earned full accreditation with no conditions through an official recognition ceremony that included not only law enforcement officers, but also department administrative assistant Tim Smith and Volunteers in Police Service members, or VIPS, the volunteer wing of the agency.

From left, Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner, police chief Matt Gregory and councilman CJ Rylands display the Buckhannon Police Department’s accreditation award.

Gregory detailed the lengthy, time-consuming, and multi-step process that the agency embarked on to earn accreditation.

That journey began in the summer of 2017, when Gregory attended the first national CALEA conference.

“At the conclusion of this conference, I immediately knew that this was a desirable path to take the Buckhannon Police Department on, as I knew that holding ourselves to the standards and ideals of CALEA was not only rising to the level of service that the community deserves, but also these ideals – these professional standards set forth by CALEA – are quite simply the right thing to do,” the police chief said.

What followed was registering as a candidate agency in April 2018, accessing the most up-to-date CALEA law enforcement standards manual and forming a City of Buckhannon CALEA Policy Review Committee. That committee met throughout 2018 and 2019 to review the BPD’s policies and procedures to ensure they aligned with more than 400 CALEA standards.

“These standards included policies on property and evidence management, use of force, pursuits, training, communications, critical incidents management, etc.,” Gregory said.

The path to accreditation also involved acquiring three software programs that enable the BPD to demonstrate they are adhering to CALEA standards. The programs also assist with human resources management, the development of early intervention programs for personnel, supervisory review of pursuits and use of force, and much more.

Gregory met with the Parkersburg Police Department, the only other CALEA-certified agency in the Mountain State, and reviewed thousands of pages of policy documents from that department and other law enforcement agencies.

Most of 2019 was focused on policy development and ‘proofing,’ i.e., providing documentation that the agency was actually adhering to its stated policies.

“Accreditation is a two-fold process: The first is ensuring that the agency has a policy that complies with each CALEA standard,” Gregory explained at the Nov. 18 meeting. “The second part of the accreditation process is to ensure that there is a proof that proves through the agency’s actions and operations that they are, in fact, complying with the policy and by extension, the CALEA standard.”

Examples of proofs are body camera and video footage, documentation of trainings and administrative/human resources reports, he said.

“By the end of 2019, the Buckhannon Police Department had a full 543-page page policy and procedure manual that was in compliance with each of the CALEA standards and a full year of proofs,” the police chief said.

A mock assessment performed by a Virginia-based accreditation support network and the CALEA regional program manager netted Gregory 14 pages of constructive criticism.

“This invaluable information allowed me to spend the next three months fine-tuning the assessment to the point to where I felt comfortable enough to file for an initial assessment from CALEA,” the police chief said.

In February 2021, the BPD underwent a web-based assessment and in April 2021, CALEA evaluators conducted an on-site assessment that involved four assessors, a public hearing and an open comment period.

“We received very good comments and were awarded full accreditation with zero conditions after each of the reviews,” Gregory said. “So, what does all this mean? Why go through all this effort? Is the reason for all of this work just to have a fancy certificate to hang on the wall? These are all questions I have heard on many different occasions and the answer is quite simple: it is the right thing to do.”

Acquiring and maintaining CALEA accreditation ensures the police department’s values of professionalism, integrity, fairness, compassion, respect and being community-oriented are practiced on a daily basis, Gregory said.  

“Our personnel and our volunteers have been very integral during this entire process as they have stepped into and embraced each of these professional principles, and they are to be commended for being part of this process,” he said ahead of the recognition ceremony.

Mayor Robbie Skinner invited councilman CJ Rylands to assist in presenting present the Police Star Medals to sworn and non-sworn members of the BPD for outstanding achievement, embracing accreditation and working to adhere to CALEA principles. The two also doled out CALEA Achievement Ribbons to VIPS members for their commitment to accreditation.

Skinner noted Rylands had been instrumental in pushing for the department to begin its journey to earning accreditation.

“Councilman Rylands brought it to us, and our police department took it and ran with it,” Skinner said. “We are so very, very proud of the accomplishments of our police department.”

Council members echoed Skinner’s congratulations, commending officers on their efforts. Officers and personnel include Lt. Doug Loudin, Sgt. Mark Stewart, Sgt. Tom Posey, Sgt. William Courtney and K-9 Officer Erros, Sgt. Marshall O’Connor, Sgt. Darin Hissam, Patrolman First Class Angel McCauley, Patrolman James Fisher, Patrolman Jacob Garrison and administrative assistant Tim Smith.

Current Volunteers in Police Service members include coordinator Steve Wykoff, assistant coordinator Jewel Fisher, assistant coordinator David Rowan, task supervisor Allen Nash, and members Andi Cartier, Evelyn Syski, Vito Syski, Sydney McDonald, Brittney Wood and Garrett Cole.

Lt. Doug Loudin receives his Police Star Medal.
Sgt. Tom Posey displays his Police Star Medal.
Sgt. William Courtney earns his Police Star Medal.
Sgt. Mark Stewart displays his Police Star Medal.
Sgt. Marshall O’Connor earns his Police Star Medal.
Sgt. Darin Hissam displays his Police Star Medal.
Patrolman First Class Angel McCauley receives her Police Star Medal.
VIPS assistant coordinator Jewel Fisher receives her CALEA Achievement Award.
Assistant VIPS coordinator David Rowan earns his CALEA Achievement Award ribbon. Other VIPS members recognized at the Nov. 18 ceremony included VIPS coordinator Steve Wykoff, task supervisor Allen Nash, and members Vito Syski, Evelyn Syski, and Andi Cartier.
Chief Matt Gregory also presented city officials who played a crucial role in assisting the BPD on its path to accreditation with certificates of recognition at the Nov. 18 council meeting. Pictured, from left are Skinner, Rylands, city recorder/information coordinator Randy Sanders, finance/administrative director Amberle Jenkins, city attorney Tom O’Neill and Gregory.

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