The City of Newberry Police Department has been reaccredited for the seventh time, making it the twenty-first year in a row the department has maintained its’ accredited status.
The South Carolina Accreditation Program (SCPAC) is an initiative of the South Carolina Police Chief’s Association and the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association. The accreditation program is a purely voluntary program that promotes professional improvement amongst the participating departments.
The Newberry Police Department received its first accreditation in March 2000. They are one of only 12 municipalities in the state to hold this status.
Lieutenant Michael Kennedy, training officer and accreditation manager within the police department said the purpose of being an accredited department was to create “standards” or policies and procedures that provide the highest level of service to the communities that the agencies serve as well as to increase the agencies’ professionalism.
The objective of the SCPAC is to:
- Increase law enforcement agency capabilities;
- Provide better departmental management by establishing precise written policies and procedures;
- Increase agency effectiveness and efficiency of services delivered;
- Provide access to the latest methods developed by law enforcement practitioners;
- Promote cooperation and coordination among law enforcement agencies and other elements of the criminal justice system;
- Increase citizen and employee confidence in the practices of the agency.
An example of one of the standards/policies that the city follows as part of the accreditation process is with communications, Kennedy said.
“We have to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to receive calls for service,” Kennedy said.
Providing documentation that an agency is practicing these standards is also a requirement. For the communications standard, Kennedy said they also must rely on the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office (NCSO) for help in completing this as they run the city’s dispatch.
Although the NCSO is not accredited, they are instrumental Kennedy said in the success of day-to-day operations as they have to follow certain practices such as having a backup generator and always having someone to manage dispatch to receive emergency notifications for service.
“We have to provide proof that we are always available to the community,” Kennedy said.
Phases of Accreditation
The accreditation process combines both a mock and regular assessment of the department, both of which were done virtually this year. To prepare for the mock assessment, the department begins gathering proofs of compliance to the accepted standards. Kennedy said there were a total of 235 standards in the SCPAC program that were applicable to the Newberry Police Department. These standards are designed to be attainable by all agencies regardless of their size and fiscal capabilities.
Kennedy said the standards are considered best practices in each area of law enforcement to include management, administration, operations and support services. The standards reflect what must be done. However, they do not specify the way the agency is to meet the requirement of the standard. This is left up to the agency itself.
“Our entire policy manual is built around accreditation,” Kennedy said. “After 21 years its engrained in our department.”
Different than in year’s past, Police Chief Roy McClurkin said the accreditation process was done completely virtual. Following the departments accreditation in 2018, McClurkin said they purchased software to assist with the process. The software, Power DMS, allowed the department to upload all of their proofs of compliance to a computer and give the assessors temporary access to the files.
“This eliminated the need for us to have to come together for both the mock and regular assessment,” McClurkin said. “That worked out very well because of the pandemic and also saves the department on expenses given with the in-person assessment.”
Each of the standards required for accreditation are mandatory and a non-compliance finding on any of them would cost the department its accreditation status. McClurkin said that this process could not be accomplished by their department alone as they rely on and cooperate with outside agencies to make this happen.
These outside agencies include the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office, Newberry County Detention Center, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, Newberry County Communications Center and other departments within city government.
All of these areas, McClurkin said are covered in the accreditation process and must meet the strict standards.
Once the self-assessment phase has been completed by the department, McClurkin then contacts the accreditation council to request a “mock assessment.” The assessment was conducted virtually by independent assessors to ensure that the city was in compliance with all of the standards and helps them to prepare for the final assessment.
Throughout the mock assessment, suggestions are offered to the department on how they could better show compliance to the standards.
This year’s mock assessment was completed in January 2021 by four independent assessors from across the state followed by a final audit of policies and proofs to ensure compliance.
The accreditation council voted unanimously on March 5 to re-accredit the department for another three years.
While the accreditation process used to be every three years, Kennedy said that has recently been updated to every year. The department will soon begin on their next reaccreditation process, meaning one-third of the proofs of compliance for their 235 standards must be completed by February 2022. The second year will pertain to the remaining standards, with year three completing the departments full assessment.
“Being an accredited police department highlights our continued commitment to providing excellent law enforcement services to the citizens of this great city by having up to date policies and procedures that we adhere to each day,” said McClurkin.
McClurkin said they teach a community policing platform to all of their officers, building a trusting relationship with community partners.
“Every day we work together to solve issues that affect the citizens and the overall quality of life within the City of Newberry,” he said. “Once again, our staff was up to the challenge and their hard work and dedicated effort to this three-year process helped us achieve re-accreditation.”