Answers to “You Decide” Boxes

Suggested answers to “You Decide” boxes in the text provide a well-researched rationale behind the recommended response to key issues facing the law enforcement profession.

“As the law enforcement profession in the United States began to discuss the need to professionalize, four law enforcement organizations led the movement for accreditation. These founding organizations are the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)—the first official body to formally discuss the need to develop a body of national law enforcement standards—the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), the National Sheriff's Association (NSA), and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE). These organizations, along with input from many law enforcement executives and other organizations throughout the country, founded the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) in 1979. CALEA, a private, non-profit national commission, was the first organization in the United States to formally accredit law enforcement agencies. The founders of CALEA intended not to repeat the mistakes of the past and to build upon the knowledge and innovation of the future of American policing (Bowman, 2001).

The standards apply to almost every facet of police operations, including use of force; pursuit; holding facilities; prisoner transportation; collection and preservation of evidence; crime analysis; victim and witness assistance; criminal investigations; traffic enforcement; recruitment, selection, and training; and internal affairs. Accreditation standards define, guide, and control how police agencies conduct their business. They govern minimum qualifications and specify selection criteria for police officers. Ultimately, every facet of law enforcement is affected, from administration to personnel issues and delivery of service. Mandatory standards deal with life, health and safety issues, legal requirements, and essential police practices. Non-mandatory standards deal with important or desirable law enforcement practices and exemplary activities (Bowman 2001).

The CALEA accreditation process involves five phases: (1) application, (2) self-assessment, (3) on-site assessment, (4) commission review, and (5) maintaining compliance and reaccreditation. A law enforcement agency usually initiates the application phase by requesting information from CALEA and formally begins the accreditation process when it executes an Accreditation Agreement with CALEA. The heart of CALEA's accreditation process is the "self assessment" phase in which an agency measures its efforts against each standard. During this phase, the agency prepares forms and documents that support its compliance with applicable standards and submits this information to CALEA assessors. The on-site assessment is a test of the agency's work. CALEA usually sends three assessors to review the agency's compliance documentation, inspect its facilities and equipment, conduct a public hearing, and interview various agency officials and governmental representatives. At the end of the three-year accreditation period, the agency must undergo another on-site assessment which is reviewed before the Commission. A public hearing, as part of the on-site inspection, allows members of the community to speak to the assessment team about the agency and its ability to comply with applicable standards (Bowman, 2001).

The benefits from accreditation are numerous and depend greatly on the constituency affected. CALEA cited six benefits of accreditation: "…controlled liability insurance costs…stronger defense against lawsuits and citizens complaints…greater accountability within the agency… support from government officials… increased community advocacy…and recognition for excellence" (CALEA Accreditation Program Overview Brochure, 1999). Liability protection is frequently cited as a major benefit of accreditation. CALEA reported in 1996 that accredited agencies often received a discount or credit on liability insurance premiums or a better rating if they were self-insured. In addition, accredited agencies had fewer lawsuits and citizens complaints and were better positioned to defend procedures that were based on nationally accepted standards. The accreditation process also promotes relationships with other agencies and incorporates mutual aid agreements between law enforcement agencies. Through the development of standardized operational policies, accreditation enhances the efficiency in handling calls for assistance, making referrals and conducting joint investigations. In light of the similarities among all law enforcement agencies, many of these benefits attributed to accreditation could be realized by law enforcement agencies throughout the world. Today, a growing number of law enforcement agencies in different nations are exploring the accreditation process to determine its applicability to varying governments and responsibilities (Bowman, 2001).           


Bowman, Dennis W. "Law Enforcement Accreditation." Crime and Justice International 17.55 (2001): n. pag. CJC - Publications - CJI - Archives. Criminal Justice Center, Sept. 2001. Web. 16 June 2015.