About CALEA accreditation

Chief, can you talk about CALEA accreditation and what it means to the Littleton Police Department?

Littleton Police Chief Doug StephensChief Douglas Stephens: So we’re very proud to say that the Littleton Police Department is a nationally accredited agency through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. We like acronyms in government, so that’s CALEA. CALEA is an international agency, actually. There’s approximately 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States, of which less than 10% of those are CALEA accredited. It’s very demanding and challenging. Accreditation demands that we, as an organization, comply with over 380 national best practices and standards in law enforcement practices, everything we do from some of the civil disturbance stuff we were hearing about tonight to parking control. I mean, you name it. Oh, it’s regulated, and we have a best practice for and our policies need to reflect that. As part of our accreditation, we’re required to prove that we comply with these. We can’t just show them our policies and say, “Look, we have the policy. We got to show that we actually do it. We have to show it every year.”

So we’re subject to annual random audits, where they go through 20%, 25% of our policies and procedures and proofs, the proofs that we actually did, what we say we did, and we never know what they’re going to be. They’re just going to hit us for 25%. We better have proof that we did it or we’re in trouble. So we do that annually, and then every four years, we have an onsite audit or inspection, where we are very thoroughly reviewed by law enforcement professionals from throughout the country who come in, and they look at everything we do. We have proofs for all 380-plus standards that we have. There’s public hearings where we come in, and folks can give feedback on our operations.

So CALEA I think is a wonderful opportunity for us as an organization to maintain that constant look at what we’re doing so that we can stay up to date on standards and best practices in our profession, and it compels us to do that because I can tell you we can get lazy, right? We have so many standards and policies, and we don’t have someone that’s just able all the time to stay up to date on them. It can become a challenge, and we can forget things, and things can get left out and not on purpose. It can just happen. But CALEA allows us to maintain a vigilance over that and provides oversight of what we do and also transparency of what we do.