History of the Accreditation Program

The President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice (1967) called for significant improvements in all aspects of the American criminal justice system. Most of the recommendations dealt directly or indirectly with the police. More specifically, the Commission urged law enforcement agencies to implement sweeping reforms in personnel structure, officer selection and training, community relations, and overall management practices. It also advocated enhanced coordination of services and greater clarification of operational policies.

Important legal developments subsequently made the need to improve law enforcement services even more urgent. In 1978, the U. S. Supreme Court held for the first time that a municipality can be held directly liable for violating a person's constitutional rights under 42 USC, section 1983, of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 (Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York). The courts have critically examined the operations of municipal governments and public agencies ever since.

In 1983, the New York State Sheriffs' Association responded to the challenge that these developments represented when it became the first organization of law enforcement executives in the country to develop an accreditation program for its members. The sheriffs' initiative was very successful, and a demand quickly grew for an accreditation program that would be available to all New York agencies that employ sworn personnel.

A blue-ribbon planning committee was formed in 1986 to explore the feasibility of developing a statewide program. Representatives of the state Association of Chiefs of Police, the state Sheriffs' Association, the State Police and the state Division of Criminal Justice Services served on this committee. A separate subcommittee was formed the following year to draft specific standards for the planning committee's review.

Enabling legislation was introduced in the state Senate and Assembly in 1987. The bill passed unanimously in both houses and was signed into law in August of 1988.

The planning committee and subcommittee worked through the beginning of 1989. On March 20, 1989, the Accreditation Council met for the first time. The Council reviewed and where necessary revised the materials that had been developed thus far. The state Division of Criminal Justice Services then sent copies of the draft standards and rules and regulations to the Temporary President of the Senate, the Speaker of the Assembly, and to every law enforcement agency, mayor and appropriate town and county official in the state. The Council met in June to review the comments that were subsequently received. Several standards were modified in response to the suggestions that were made.

The Council sponsored a comprehensive pilot test during the summer of 1989 to identify the types of problems that might be incurred during implementation. The results demonstrated that the standards were reasonable and that they could be successfully implemented by agencies of all sizes.

A total of 17 law enforcement agencies served on the planning committee, subcommittee, and/or participated in the program's pilot test. These agencies ranged in size from seven full-time officers to just over 4,000 sworn personnel. In addition, officers from 50 other law enforcement agencies and elected officials from 17 municipalities provided input during the development of the initial standards.

The program became fully operational in December 1989. In the years that followed, the Council adopted several policies to facilitate program operations and oversaw the preparation of extensive resource materials to assist participating agencies.

The Council formed a committee in December of 1994 to conduct a comprehensive review of the program standards. The review was undertaken to determine if all of the requirements were still appropriate, to identify standards that should be clarified, consolidated, or otherwise modified, and to identify any new issues that the standards ought to address. The committee had representatives from six accredited and four unaccredited agencies of all sizes. The agencies represented communities from Long Island to the Finger Lakes.

Most of the recommendations that the committee offered were approved by the Accreditation Council in the fall of 1995. This action reduced the number of standards from 169 to 144, but did not otherwise affect the scope or impact of the initiative.

In October 2001, the Accreditation Council adopted a third edition of revised and newly drafted standards after a comprehensive review was completed by a committee of practitioners. The Committee was tasked to analyze the wording of each standard for clarity and appropriateness and to propose new standards where justified. As a result of the Committee's work, the Council was presented with 130 standards for consideration. The reduction in the number of standards from 144 was primarily due to the consolidation of a number of standards. The 130 standards included 4 newly drafted requirements. The changes eliminated duplication and unnecessary paper work without compromising the integrity of the program.

In June 2008, the Accreditation Council adopted two additional standards concerning sex offenders and collection of DNA samples and in 2011 a standard was adopted regarding Hate Crimes, bringing the total number of standards to 133 as of January 1st, 2012.   

The Accreditation Program will continue to evolve in ways that are consistent with changing legal and social developments. As it does, the Council is committed to the task of ensuring that the program remains responsive to the needs of New York's law enforcement community.