Reviewed by peers
Cheney Police Department is first in Spokane County to receive state re-accreditation
The Cheney Police Department has become the first law enforcement agency in Spokane County and one of just a handful east of the Cascade Mountains to receive re-accreditation from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC —pronounced “wah-spik”).
To most individuals outside law enforcement that might not mean a whole lot, but to Police Chief John Hensley, Cmdr. Rick Campbell and the rest of Cheney’s department, it means other individuals in the profession have looked at what Cheney is doing and agree they’re doing law enforcement right.
“That has value, that has weight,” Hensley said.
Campbell and former Police Chief Jeff Sale helped get Cheney accredited initially in 2010, the first county agency to do so. Since then Campbell and other department officials have assisted the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office along with Spokane Valley and most recently the city of Spokane police departments with their initial accreditation.
But Hensley said re-accreditation is harder because instead of one year of records detailing possession of and adherence to policy and procedures, WASPC auditors are looking at four. Cheney passed without a single finding.
“Re-accreditation is more involved than the initial accreditation, and we did it with flying colors,” Hensley said.
WASPC has 132 administrative and operational standards broken down into 19 chapters of a 27-page document that departments must meet. Campbell said some of those standards are more stringent than WASPC’s counterpart CALEA — the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, a national agency whose standards are also recognized in the state.
With WASPC, it’s not a matter of whether or not a department meets the state standards, Campbell said. It’s a matter of whether or not the department’s standards meet or exceed WASPC’s standards, and if the department is living up to those goals — especially those that exceed the standards — and can prove it.
For instance, WASPC standards for “Use of Force/Deadly Force Training” require personnel authorized to carry a weapon receive annual training on use of force and deadly force policies. Cheney’s policy is for personnel to meet this on a quarterly basis.
“If we go out and shoot once, we’re compliant with the standard, but not with our policy,” Campbell said. “We would be out of compliance. That would be a finding.”
WASPC administrative standards range from detailing where a department gets its authority to records management, unusual occurrences, fiscal management, training, performance evaluations to internal affairs. With operations, auditors look at traffic and investigative functions, evidence and property control and prisoner security.
Campbell said auditors first familiarize themselves with the standards, which sometimes consist of two parts, a description of the standard followed by an outlining of the standard’s purpose. The auditors then spend a day at the agency being audited — which in Cheney’s case took place in January 2014 — reviewing the department’s policies and then looking for proof those policies are being followed.
If a department policy says scales in the property room must be calibrated every three months, the department must produce records showing it’s been done. Campbell said auditors have dispatchers call a patrol officer in so they can question them about their understanding of department policy, such as procedures for taking a part-time job outside the agency, or forms they must file when processing a suspect.
“If a policy says all officers shall wear body armor on duty and an officer comes in without armor on, you’re out of compliance,” Campbell said.
Cheney had one finding in their initial 2010 audit. Auditors discovered one officer not wearing a reflective vest when exiting his vehicle on traffic duty as per department policy. Campbell said it took one phone call, and the issue was resolved.
Cheney will begin preparation for its next re-accreditation audit, which takes place May 2017, this July once new standards come out. The cost of the audit runs about $2,000, half of which is picked up by the city’s insurer, but is considerably less than the $16,000 just to get CALEA auditors to show up at the agency.
For Hensley and Campbell, it’s not about the money, or a plaque to mount on a wall. It’s about how fellow law enforcement professionals and the public view the department’s operations.
“People want to know that people who make arrests, use force, are following rules,” Hensley said.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.