The Quinsigamond Community College Campus Police Department made history recently, becoming the first community college police department to receive official accreditation from the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission (MPAC). This is the Commission’s highest award.
This prestigious accreditation involves a police agency formally evaluating its activities, policies and procedures to determine compliance with defined program standards set by the MPAC. The MPAC adopts its standards from the National Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, which was established in 1979. Accreditation is a rigorous two-stop process and is similar to other accreditation processes that encompass Massachusetts and Federal regulations.
While not mandatory, the benefits of being an accredited agency bring a lot to the table for the police department. In addition to complete transparency for the officers and entire QCC community, the accreditation brings a strong message to the court system, demonstrating to the courts that each and every procedure has been followed correctly and accurately.
“There is an added credibility that stands up in the courts,” said QCC Campus Police Chief Kevin Ritacco.
To become an accredited police agency, a police department must first become certified. Certification requires that a police department meet 159 mandatory standards. The standards impact officer and public safety, address high liability/risk management issues, and promote operational efficiency throughout the department. Once a police department is certified they can then work to become state accredited, which involves an additional 98 mandatory standards that must be met, as well as a percentage of 125 optional standards, based on the size of the police department.
The Commission’s standards require that agencies commit their unwritten policies and procedures to writing. The internal self-assessment is initiated by the department’s police chief (agency CEO) and is then reviewed by Commission-appointed assessors. These assessors are typically police chiefs and accreditation managers, who have been specially trained to conduct on-site assessments on behalf of the Commission.
“This has been a goal of mine to do the accreditation process since becoming chief,” Chief Ritacco said. “Our Deputy Chief Reynaldo Rodriguez, said ‘we can do this’ and became our accreditation manager. He helped us reach our goal and deserves a lot of credit. This has given us better communication, better reports, more programs, an honor guard, and most especially full transparency of our policies and procedures.”
Every policy is vetted through the department and reviewed with each officer and by the command staff before being signed off on by the chief. It takes 30 days to approve each process before it is committed to writing.
“This has truly been a coordinated effort of each department at the college, from the emergency management teams, to facilities and our entire police department,” Chief Ritacco continued.
He credits QCC’s Board of Trustees with allocating the funds to enable the department to begin the certification process, as well as several accredited police departments in the area that offered assistance and guidance.
“The department was certified in May 2016 and a year later we became accredited,” Chief Ritacco said. “This has truly been a coordinated effort and I’m appreciative of every single one of our officers for their hard work and commitment.”
While the process to become accredited is an arduous one, the work is far from over. Every three years the department must go through a reaccreditation process to show that it is maintaining the accreditation standards.
“Maintaining this is just as important as the accreditation itself. By doing this reaccreditation every three years, it shows that the officers understood all the policies and procedures. Every policy is reviewed with each officer and checked off a role call training module,” said Chief Ritacco, adding, “We are extremely proud to be the first community college to earn this accreditation.”