Division of Criminal Justice Services

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. 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 planning committee was formed in 1986 to explore the feasibility of developing a statewide accreditation program. Representatives of the state Association of Chiefs of Police, the state Sheriffs' Association, the New York State Police and the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) served on this committee. A separate subcommittee of law enforcement professionals was formed the following year to draft specific standards for the planning committee's review.

Enabling legislation, establishing the New York State Law Enforcement Agency Accreditation Council, 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.

On March 20, 1989, the Law Enforcement Agency Accreditation Council met for the first time. The Council reviewed and where necessary revised the standards that had been developed by the planning committee and subcommittee.  The draft standards and rules and regulations establishing the implementation of the program were then sent to the Temporary President of the Senate, the Speaker of the Assembly, and 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 program was piloted 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 could be successfully implemented by agencies of all sizes.  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 accreditation program has undergone several comprehensive reviews and updates throughout the years since its inception. The most recent review, conducted between March 2014 and June 2015, was aimed at identifying standards that should be clarified, consolidated, or otherwise modified, and identifying potential new standards required to keep in line with modern policing and current issues. The committee which reviewed and developed the revised standards was comprised of representatives from nine accredited agencies of various sizes from throughout the state. The proposed changes and new standards were approved by the Accreditation Council in June 2015 and the Standards and Compliance Verification Manual, 8th Edition, was released on September 18, 2015.

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.