BROOKSVILLE — Brooksville police Sgt. Robert Dixon will attest that preparations for the department's accreditation renewal began the moment the agency earned its original endorsement in 2011 from the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation.
In fact, said Dixon, the department's accreditation program coordinator, the process "never really stops," as department policies and procedures are constantly reviewed and refined.
This week, assessors from the commission will be in town to see whether the Brooksville Police Department continues to comply with approximately 260 standards in order to keep its accredited status.
Dixon, who was hired in 2009 to maintain, oversee and prepare the department for the stringent accreditation process, doesn't think that will be a problem. In January, the department staged its own mock assessment and came through with flying colors, he said.
The three-day reassessment process is comprehensive and includes a thorough review of written policies and procedures, as well as interviews with administrative and rank-and-file employees. The process examines closely a number of procedural elements, including how the agency handles evidence, what policies officers are expected to follow when they pursue suspects and to what degree uniformed personnel are qualified with their weapons.
Police Chief George Turner said that he made gaining accreditation a top priority when he was hired by the city in 2007. Calling it a "highly prized recognition of professional excellence in law enforcement," he hoped the effort would help pave a new way for a department that had seen its share of administrative troubles before his arrival.
In addition to providing the staff with renewed focus, Turner thought the program would help lower liability and health insurance rates, as well as lessen the likelihood that the city would be held liable in a civil lawsuit.
"In essence, it says that we do what we say we do," Turner said. "It's a big source of pride to this department."
Although relatively new in the law enforcement field, universities, hospitals and other professional organizations have, for many years, undergone similar accreditation processes. Of the more than 400 law enforcement agencies in Florida, about 140 are currently listed as accredited. Although the Hernando County Sheriff's Office became an accredited agency under Sheriff Tom Mylander, current Sheriff Al Nienhuis decided to forfeit the endorsement in 2011 due to financial concerns.
Dixon said that although the accreditation reassessment is mainly administrative, it also takes into account any comments — good and bad — from the public about the department's methods and procedures.
"Obviously, we work for the citizens of Brooksville," he said, "so what they have to say is very important in the assessment process."
Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.