The Lakeland Police Department, in Polk County, Fla., is in the process of significant scrutiny as it endures the dissection cycle and probing eyes of the judging body of the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies CALEA). Created in 1979 with its sole purpose of setting and ensuring high standards in law enforcement, CALEA is the first independent body of practitioners to credential law enforcement agencies in the United States.
With its own infrastructure designed to meet objective reasoning and fair credentialing, CALEA is comprised of 21 members who are representatives for three-year terms, and renewable terms not exceeding three terms in total.
Of the twenty-one member CALEA Board of Commissioners, 11 are law enforcement professionals, and the remaining 10 are professionals from the public/private sectors, including a Wyoming Supreme Court judge. None of the Board members receive any compensation.
Each Board member is selected by CALEA’s four founding organizations’ executives, from: The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), National Organization of Black Law-Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), and the National Sheriff’s Association (NSA).
Lakeland, Fla., Police Chief Lisa Womack currently fills one of the aforementioned 21-member CALEA Board of Commissioners’ seats.
CALEA has progressed to also examine and accredit other areas in law enforcement to include Public Safety Communications Accreditation (9-1-1 centers), Campus Security Accreditation (public safety jurisdictions within educational institutions, including non-sworn security services), and Public Safety Training Academy Accreditation (police training academies/facilities).
As its name implies, this non-government panel of personnel has as its mission one primary ingredient: To ensure law enforcement agencies are meeting CALEA’s predetermined and strictly adhered-to criteria. If determined to be in-compliance with criteria, then the petitioning law enforcement agency is conferred the national symbol and honor of being deemed a stellar, progressive and professional public safety entity.
CALEA refers to its certification emblem as the Gold Standard in Public Safety.
With 18,000 law enforcement agencies scattered throughout the United States, not all apply for and achieve the coveted label: CALEA-certified. Twenty-three police agencies received the CALEA-accredited certification at an awards ceremony in November 2012.
For any law enforcement agency to be certified by CALEA, it must apply, prepare for, and endure the generally days-long visit from CALEA’s team of assessors. The CALEA assessors evaluate everything from arrest procedures to zany behavior patterns. Myriad criteria must be met (implemented in the agency’s operational scope) so as to be deemed “in compliance” as a professional law enforcement entity accredited by CALEA.
The Lakeland Police Department has already experienced the CALEA process and has had conferred upon it the CALEA endorsements. However, in recent years, under then-Police Chief Roger Boatner, the LPD decided against seeking re-accreditation stemming from some lapses it recognized. One of the tenets for which current Police Chief Lisa Womack was hired in 2011 was to reinstitute the CALEA accreditation-seeking process.
Additionally, other training issue violations arose, such as its Public Safety Aides (also known as Community Service Officers in some jurisdictions) carrying pepper spray yet not up-to-date in its use-of-force training, a staple for any police agency and its street patrol personnel. Inoculations were also suspect at the same time, specifically a lapse in LPD staff having vaccinations against Hepatitis-B.
A primarily-noted ingredient regarding the history behind the decision not to seek re-accreditation is based on the Florida Sunshine Law, aka public records presentment.
A case surrounding a juvenile LPD suspected of committing murder, information for which The Ledger in Lakeland, Fla., requested records, was denied. A Florida Sunshine Law records dispute between The Ledger and the Lakeland Police Department ensued, made headlines, and seemingly further tarnished LPD’s standing, once again.
Of late, the Lakeland Police Department is embroiled in a widely-publicized investigation of approximately 20 of its police members involved in a sex-while-on-and-off-duty scandal.
Moreover, one of its patrol officer’s conducting a traffic stop was recorded (via his in-car police video recorder) having a female motorist lifting her shirt, upon his admonition to do so, so as to have her shake loose any potential contraband in her bra. Albeit not illegal, the Lakeland police officer’s actions are deemed inappropriate and non-sanctioned.
All of these aforementioned tenets are among criteria evaluated by CALEA assessors. The team of CALEA assessors were at the Lakeland Police Department in April 2013 and expected to render their findings this month.
For CALEA to properly assess predetermined criteria, an agency soliciting CALEA accreditation must exhibit and provide records of proof it has been implementing these criteria points, for a full two years preceding assessment team visit. LPD has been inplementing such criteria under the two-year tenure of Police Chief Lisa Womack and is thus eligible for the renderings of CALEA assessors.
Synonymous with the CALEA process, whereby law enforcement agencies are evaluated for preeminence and national recognition by CALEA assessors, Lakeland PD is also seeking the similar purpose with the state version of CALEA, known as the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation (CFA).
Among many other law enforcement agencies operating within the confines of Florida’s jurisdictional borders is the Lakeland Police Department, for which it seeks inclusion among those CFA-accredited police entities.
Generally, any police agency which attains the CALEA endorsement also receives the CFA recognition. CFA is modeled after its predecessor, CALEA.
As a significant force to be reckoned with, CALEA has among its 21-member Board of Commissioners none other than Lisa Womack, the Lakeland Police Department’s current chief of police.
Of central focus remains how CALEA metes out such ostensible conflicts of interest, given one of its conferees is being judged by her colleagues charged with the evaluation and assessment of a law enforcement agency of which she is in charge.
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