The accreditation process has several distinct stages. The amount of time that an agency should plan on allotting to complete the process varies depending in part upon the amount of work that needs to be accomplished. Another significant variable is the number of hours per week that can be committed to the task of drafting and implementing new procedures. Some agencies have been able to earn accreditation within several months of applying. Significant elements of the accreditation process include:
Officials who wish to participate in the Accreditation Program must submit an Application. The enabling legislation specifies that applications must be signed by both the agency's chief law enforcement officer, and by the municipality's chief elected officer or a representative of the local governing body. The chief or sheriff will also be asked to sign an Agency Participation Agreement which specifies the mutual responsibilities of the agency and Accreditation Council. The Application and Agency Participation Agreement form is available on-line in the Publications and Forms section.
The policy development stage is marked by the agency's efforts to meet applicable program requirements. Documentation must be compiled to demonstrate compliance with those standards which the agency already meets, and new procedures will have to be drafted for those areas which have not yet been addressed. Experienced program staff from the Office of Public Safety are available for consultation throughout this process. New policies and procedures must be fully implemented for at least three months before an agency can be considered for accreditation.
Agency officials notify the Office of Public Safety when they believe that all program requirements have been successfully met. OPS then selects a team of experienced law enforcement practitioners who conduct a three day on-site assessment of the agency to verify that it qualifies for accreditation status. Verification includes the review of policies and procedures and supporting documentation related to the Accreditation Standards. The chief executive officer has an opportunity to review the list of potential assessors prior to this visit and can disqualify an individual if there is a conflict of interest or other compelling reason.
The assessment team leader prepares a detailed report of the team's findings and forwards it to the Office of Public Safety. A copy of this report is then sent to the NYS Law Enforcement Accreditation Council for review and action at its next scheduled meeting. If accreditation is granted, it will be valid for a period of five years. If accreditation is deferred, the Council will advise the agency what it must do in order to become accredited.
Agencies that meet all program requirements are awarded a mounted Certificate of Accreditation. In addition, the program manager receives a mounted certificate of Accomplishment to recognize the role that he or she had in helping the agency to become accredited. Division of Criminal Justice Services officials present the plaques at a local ceremony hosted by the participating agency.
Accredited agencies must develop specific mechanisms to monitor and enforce internal compliance with all applicable standards. This is a critical step in the accreditation process because it ensures continuous compliance with agency policies and facilitates the reaccreditation assessment. State rules and regulations require chief executive officers of accredited agencies to file annual reports attesting to their ongoing compliance and identifying any instances of significant noncompliance. The Council reviews these reports very carefully and will provide additional guidance to agencies where appropriate.
Chief executive officers of accredited agencies advise OPS of their wish to be reaccredited by submitting a new application near the end of their five-year period of accreditation. The reaccreditation process is very similar to one described above for an agency's initial accreditation. Accredited agencies that have regularly updated their program files are in a very strong position to be reaccredited.