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West Valley City Journal

West Valley police aiming to raise its standards with further accreditation

Mar 09, 2020 02:41PM ● By Travis Barton

Following proper vehicle pursuit standards are one of many the police department must comply with to attain accreditation. (Darrell Kirby/City Journals)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

In its efforts to continually improve its training and expertise, the West Valley City Police Department will have an independent party perform an onsite assessment in October. 

The independent party is CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies), a national organization considered the gold standard in public safety. The department was awarded CALEA accreditation in 2017 after an extensive three and a half year process where it had to demonstrate the best practices of law enforcement in over 150 standards. 

West Valley City Police is the only department in the state with the accreditation, Salt Lake City is currently one year into the process. Only 5% of agencies across the country are accredited.  

Mark Brooks, the department’s accreditation manager, presented the future timeline of West Valley City’s process with CALEA to the City Council on Feb. 11. He compared the designation to a five-star rating for hotels or restaurants. 

“That’s what CALEA accreditation is about, it’s about meeting higher standards,” Brooks told the council. CALEA came together in 1979 to set up industry standards and best practices for law enforcement agencies. 

When the department was accredited in 2017 as a tier one program, it was for a four-year period. Each year, 25% of the department is remotely reviewed by CALEA. The agency aims to move to the advanced tier. A tier one program, Brooks said, requires 187 standards while the advanced tier will require approximately 400.

The department would be reaccredited in March 2021 if it passes evaluations.  

Brooks himself used to be a CALEA assessor, evaluating at least 100 agencies and talking to 100 more. 

“This is the best thing you can do for your police department,” he said, pointing out that the police department holds the highest liability for city governments. CALEA agencies have reduced liability, Brooks said, making them more likely to win legal cases. 

Deputy Chief Scott Buchanan told the council that police applicants routinely tell them they only test with West Valley City due to the accreditation. 

“Chief (Colleen) Jacobs has been a strident supporter of accreditation, making sure we are providing all the attention it requires,” he said. 

The process is a continuous updating of policies and standards, Brooks said, noting nine major law enforcement areas the standards address: 

  • Roles, responsibilities and relationships
  • Organization, management and administration
  • Personnel structure 
  • Personnel process
  • Operations
  • Operation support
  • Traffic operations
  • Detainee and court-related activities
  • Auxiliary and technical services

For a vehicle pursuit, for example, there are 12 directives given to comply with the standard. 

“It does provide our command staff and chief the information they need to make good decisions,” Brooks said.