December 19, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria Police Department seeks accreditation

Elyria police officers leave a home on Hollywood Drive after searching for a suspect in September. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

Elyria police officers leave a home on Hollywood Drive after searching for a suspect in September. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

Despite facing manpower shortages, the Elyria police chief wants to begin an extensive and time-consuming accreditation program with the end goal of turning “a good department into a premier department.”

The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies has accredited just 7 percent of law enforcement agencies in the United States, but Police Chief Duane Whitely said Elyria needs to go through the three-year process now if it’s going to become a better department. He said it’s not wise to wait until the city has the right number of officers.

On Tuesday night, while introducing the CALEA process to City Council, he addressed concerns that accreditation could take officers away from policing in the city.

“My only concern is Elyria is low on staffing,” said Councilman Jack Baird, R-at large. “I’m concerned officers will not be doing something because they are doing this instead.”

Whitely said he shares the same concern. He has contemplated pushing for accreditation for 10 years — long before became the department’s chief.

“We have been waiting for the right time to do this, but there is never going to be a right time,” he said. “We have to do this now if we want to stop standing in our own way of becoming the department we need to be.”

With the addition of four new hires earlier this year, the number of officers on the force is 80.

Whitely has pegged police Sgt. Bill Lantz with the responsibility for the accreditation, and the veteran officer sees it as the next step for the department.

“Accreditation is difficult to have, but great once you do,” he said.

There are 482 standards for achieving advanced accreditation. They touch on every aspect of law enforcement from operational policies and officer training to organization and technical services. There are 48 accredited agencies in Ohio including Toledo, Mansfield, Dublin, Newark and Shaker Heights.

During the next three years, the department will enroll in the commission for an initial fee of $10,100 as well as purchase coordinating software for another $10,650. The self-assessment phase, which calls for the department to look at how it measures up to each standard and develops a plan for meeting them, will run until roughly August 2015. A CALEA representative will then conduct an on-site assessment of the department and issue its finding.

After all the work, Whitely said accreditation will be a feather in the department’s cap. He said he has heard from other police departments that they received more grants after receiving accreditation and faced fewer lawsuits.

Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka said the city will receive a slight discount on its liability insurance if it attains accreditation.

And, if anything, Mayor Holly Brinda said the department will just learn through self-evaluation how to be more efficient and effective.

“I applaud them for seeing this out and adopting a spirit of self-improvement,” she said. “They are committed to getting it done and becoming a premier department and that is something my administration fully supports.”

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.