Create Buckhannon executive director and city councilman CJ Rylands speaks at the April 5 public comment session that was part of the Buckhannon Police Department's on-site assessment. As part of the assessment, CALEA assessors appeared virtually to listen to comments from community members, organizations and partner agencies regarding the BPD's adherence to CALEA principles. Pictured at left is city recorder Randy Sanders.

Police department receives rave reviews on accreditation progress at CALEA forum

BUCKHANNON – The Buckhannon Police Department last week cleared one of its last hurdles to achieving accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies – the on-site assessment.

As part of that assessment, the BPD conducted a public information session Monday, April 5, so the public could ask questions or make comments to the CALEA assessors about the Buckhannon Police Department potentially achieving accreditation.

Achieving accreditation through CALEA is a multi-year process, and if the BPD attains the prestigious distinction, it would only be the second law enforcement department in the state after the Parkersburg Police Department to do so. In February, the BPD progressed smoothly through its online assessment, and an on-site assessment, which was conducted virtually due to the pandemic, was subsequently scheduled for April 5-6. Part of the assessment mean the actual assessors appeared virtually through a video screen to listen to comments from residents, partner agencies and community organizations.

Following the conclusion of the on-site virtual assessment, CALEA assessors will write up a report on their finding, and the BPD will learn if they have, in fact, attained accreditation in July, city police chief Matt Gregory said.

“In July, I will appear before a panel of the CALEA commission to respond to the report and answer any additional questions they’d have, at which time they’ll vote for accreditation,” BPD chief Matt Gregory said. “It’s truly an honor to be part of this community, and I can’t say enough how much I appreciate folks for coming out and expressing what they think.”

West Virginia Wesleyan College president Dr. Joel Thierstein was among those in attendance at the April 5 forum. Thierstein said it is critical that Wesleyan maintains a good reputation with law enforcement and the BPD has made that easy for them.

“I have seen this group operate in times of crisis and in times of calm,” Thierstein said. “It’s nothing short of amazing way they respond in any situation – their response time is incredible, as mentioned earlier, the professionalism is unmatched.”

He said it is important for a college to have the ability to tell a parent that their child will be safe when they are away from home.

“What Matt Gregory and his team do here in town is aspirational, and it should be aspirational for everybody in the country,” Thierstein said. “This is what all law enforcement should be like; it’s incredible. I’ve had a chance to live in a lot of different places in New York and Chicago, and this is what the best looks like; it’s right here.”

CJ Rylands, Buckhannon city councilman and executive director of Create Buckhannon, said Create Buckhannon has, over the years, discussed the police department’s philosophy and role in the community during its weekly meetings.

“This group (Create Buckhannon) has been holding weekly community conversations for approximately 12 years now, and I would guess probably about 10 years ago, we started the topic of the philosophy of the local police department and whether it aligned with the expectations of the community and what type of police behaviors make citizens feel safe,” Rylands said. “We’ve had several meetings with Matt (Chief of Police Matt Gregory) and Doug (BPD Lt. Doug Loudin), and worked on these thoughts and ideas and continued to discuss them.”

Rylands commended the department getting to this point in the accreditation process.

“We traveled to a town in northern West Virginia, Granville, and met with their officers who were had already undergoing this process but had not reached this final point as we have,” Rylands said. “I’d like to congratulate the Buckhannon Police Department for this effort, which is significant, and a lot of departments start this program, but don’t finish it, especially on time.”

Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner said he appreciated all the work the BPD put forth to become accredited.

From left, city recorder Randy Sanders and Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner at the April 5 CALEA public information session.

“The efforts they’ve put forward have been admirable,” Skinner said. “I fully support them. I remember the accreditation committee listened to all the updates, the efforts, the work and the documentation and how these policies are applied to their behavior. They had to prove they were doing what is, in fact, best practices, so as a citizen, I’m thrilled. I feel differently now when a police car pulls up behind me, and when I wave at them, they wave back.”

Read more about CALEA here or the BPD’s experiences with it here.

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