A four-day onsite evaluation beginning Feb. 9 is the Wrightsville Beach Police Department’s final step toward earning its Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) designation, a set of standards governing public safety organizations.
“These are the accepted best practices and standards in law enforcement,” Wrightsville Beach Police Department Captain P. Burdette said during a Jan. 16 phone interview. “There’s no reason not to strive for excellence.”
Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House said CALEA standards would provide the agency with a new level of professionalism, starting with its policy manual.
“We had a policy manual that was quite out of date,” he told town leaders during the Dec. 11, 2014, board of aldermen meeting. “A big part of CALEA is rewriting policy.”
It took the officers 18 months to write the new manual. They created and compiled nearly 1,200 standards, House said.
The policies were based on CALEA’s requirements, but adapted to fit the environment of Wrightsville Beach, Burdette explained.
“CALEA doesn’t tell you how to do something, they just tell you what needs to be done,” he said. “It has to be tailored to the specific region, agency and population.”
House listed several benefits to creating and adhering to the new standards, including increasing the department’s accountability and reducing liability exposure. The new pursuit policy was a good example of that, he said.
“When I came here, you could pretty much pursue anybody for anything,” he said. “We’ve changed that. The only way that somebody can pursue somebody is if it’s a violent felony where they pose a great risk to the public.”
The standards also create consistency when officers respond to situations outside of their jurisdiction. All of the police departments in the area are currently either CALEA accredited or in the process of becoming accredited, Burdette said, which allows them to work together more easily.
“Geographically speaking, we are all so close,” Burdette said. “If we all subscribe to the same philosophy and types of policies and practices, should a major situation go down and we have to go in and help out another jurisdiction it provides a seamless transition.”
The department is currently preparing for its onsite evaluation, which includes a public information session Feb. 10 at Wrightsville Beach Town Hall. Persons outside the agency are invited to provide feedback to the assessment team.
Following the onsite assessment, the CALEA commission will vote whether to grant the WBPD its accreditation. Comments may also be submitted by phone, mailed to the CALEA office, or emailed to [email protected]
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