VALPARAISO | The city's Police Department had its accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies renewed for another three years.
The department first received CALEA accreditation in 2010 after about a 3½-year process of upgrading its polices and practices. The accreditation is good for three years before the department must be reinspected and re-evaluated to earn the renewal.
Police Chief Michael Brickner said the accreditation is more than a piece of paper. It means the department meets tough national standards on everything from how it uses deadly force to whether it pursues a fleeing vehicle to how it recruits employees to make sure it gets the best police force.
"One of out goals was to become one of the elite police departments and one of the most professional and innovative," Brickner said. "(Accreditation) has elevated us to the level we wanted to get to.
"It's a lot of work. It's a voluntary assessment of the department, and it forces the department to perform and do the things we say we are doing. It holds us accountable for our performance. It professionalizes the organization and strengthens the confidence of the community in the department."
Accreditation also has a positive impact on the department's insurance rating as well because it can decrease its exposure to lawsuits. Only a handful of departments in the state have received CALEA accreditation.
Valparaiso budgets about $7,000 a year for membership in CALEA and another organization that helps with policy questions. That amount also covers training.
"It just instills a sense of pride in the department, and it's hard to put a price tag on that," the chief said.