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Safety, Certified

Achieving accreditation for your safety and security operation can bring benefits that are both professional and practical. Business officers and safety professionals explain why and how their institutions made the grade.

By Nancy Mann Jackson

*When Villanova University, located on suburban Philadelphia's Main Line, needed a new director of public safety, the university included in its position announcement its intention to pursue national campus safety accreditation. That stated goal was one reason David Tedjeske applied for the job. "This signified to me that the university was serious about professionalizing its public safety department," says Tedjeske, who has led that area since 2007. The department achieved accreditation in 2011 from the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA).

Business officers at Villanova say the goal of accrediting the university's public safety department was intended to be both professional and practical. "In my view, accreditation would be a tangible demonstration of the department's enhanced professionalism, and thus was worthy of my support," says Kenneth Valosky, vice president for administration and finance. "There is nothing of more importance than the campus safety of our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and visitors; and accreditation would be an objective, external validation of the department's efforts to ensure that goal."

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For details about emerging technologies that will influence university policing, see "Technology Trends and Implications for Campus Security," in Business Officer Plus at www.nacubo.org.

Villanova—a private, comprehensive masters' institution—joins a growing number of colleges and universities of different sizes and types that are choosing to pursue campus safety accreditation to ensure that their public safety departments are adhering to best practices in the field. Part of the process is to publicly portray their commitments to providing top-notch safety and security on campus.

While IACLEA is devoted solely to accrediting campus safety departments, other organizations offer similar certification. At Georgia State University, Atlanta, the public safety department decided to pursue accreditation from three different accrediting bodies, because each offered a different benefit, says Connie Sampson, chief and assistant vice president for university police at Georgia State.

"We wanted a way to improve delivery of public safety services and to promote pride and professionalism within our department," says Sampson, referring to the public, urban research university, with approximately 32,000 students. "The Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police state certification program is one of the largest professional associations for law enforcement administrators in Georgia, and one of the largest in the country. The IACLEA accreditation program is the leading authority in campus public safety. And the CALEA [Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies] accreditation program is a national credentialing authority for seeking professional excellence."

Following are further details on Villanova, Georgia State University, and several other campuses' efforts and outcomes in seeking safety and security accreditation.

Benefits and Costs

The process of pursuing campus safety accreditation offers its own rewards. By examining the standards and working to meet them, public safety departments develop habits of self-assessment and ongoing improvement. Those who are going through the process also benefit from having an instant network of professionals in already-certified departments across the country willing to offer advice and help. "Support from other accredited schools has been invaluable," Tedjeske says. "Other schools that have completed the process are often willing to provide examples of policies and operating practices that meet the standards."

Flashback ... 5 Years Ago

In an October 2009 Business Officer article mentioning the status of campus security ...

"Obviously, efforts ramped up hugely after the Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois incidents. On our campus, during the past 10 years, we've more than tripled the size of our security force. And, beyond numbers, we've grown the quality of our program significantly. Our officers are better trained and paid than in the past."

KEVAN BUCK, executive vice president, University of Tulsa, Oklahoma

  • Fees and expenses. Fees for accreditation vary depending on the accrediting organization, explains Tedjeske. With IACLEA, fees are based on student enrollment. Institutions with 10,000 or more students pay $3,000 annually; schools with fewer than 10,000 students pay $3,000 for the first year and $2,500 per year thereafter.

CALEA's fee structure is based on the number of full-time staff employed by the security department and range from $3,470 to $5,000 annually, says Tedjeske.

Fees for both organizations allow institutions to access all required forms and materials, as well as to qualify for the on-site evaluation by a team of assessors.

Additional costs are based on existing equipment and programmatic and operational practices of the accrediting organization at the time it embarks on the process with an institution. For example, says Tedjeske, a current standard requires that an alternate power source be available for a department's emergency public safety dispatching function. While most departments already have this capacity, acquiring it would be an added expense for a department that does not.

Other requirements include protective barriers between front and rear seats in the vehicles used to transport detainees; medical and psychological examinations for candidates for sworn officer positions; and staff training on a broad range of topics-a process that can incur travel, instructional, and overtime costs. Many departments already budget for such activities, making the true cost of becoming accredited quite a bit less than it might initially appear.

A good first step, advises Tedjeske, is to review the accrediting body's standards to gain a better sense of cost and overall feasibility of the process. Some accrediting agencies, such as IACLEA, make their standards available online at no cost; other agencies may charge a fee unless a department is already enrolled in their programs.

Dedicated staff time can be an issue, especially for smaller departments. Tedjeske notes, "Someone must fulfill the role of accreditation manager, a position that the chief or director typically does not have time for."

  • Much to be gained. Once an institution earns accreditation, it can experience numerous other benefits, including human resources advantages. Sampson says her department's personnel have higher morale than they did before the accreditation, and it is easier to recruit and retain good workers.

Another benefit of accreditation is a public safety department's elevated reputation. "Higher education administrators and academicians understand the concept of accreditation very well," Tedjeske says. "Being accredited helps establish credibility for the department within the larger university setting."

In addition to enhancing the public safety department's reputation on campus, Sampson says becoming accredited gave her department an improved status throughout the community and among local law enforcement agencies. "Accreditation allows university police departments to stay at levels that top municipal agencies are adhering to, and provides
a challenge to maintain those levels," says Georgia State's Sampson.

"It enhances operations by helping us strengthen policies and procedures, keeps us from becoming complacent by offering a process of self-evaluation, keeps in check law-enforcement activities and goals, and ensures the continuing stable condition of the agency. Accreditation promotes positive growth and builds morale, which leads to work efficiency. It also allows us to operate on common ground with surrounding agencies to increase the quality of services to the citizens of our community."

A university benefits when neighbors, community members, and parents view the campus as a safe place to be. Sampson says her department's accreditation has also aided the university's new student recruitment efforts and reduced liability litigations.

But receiving accreditation is not a stopping point. Accredited safety departments are devoted to continuous improvement, with departments submitting an annual report certifying their continued compliance and reporting any issues. For GSU, a joint accreditation from IACLEA and CALEA means that the university can pay $450 to include annual assessments, a fee that Sampson says, "represents $150 per year to IACLEA for a three-year self-assessment."

Accreditation Standards

Becoming accredited means adhering to a long list of standards set forth by the accrediting body. As with fees, the standards vary based on which accrediting organization a department chooses.

The applicability of standards will also differ based on the nature of the department's authority and the scope of its services. "Sworn" police departments are authorized to make arrests, and their personnel generally carry firearms. By contrast, "non-sworn" agencies provide security services, but must rely on local police for law enforcement activities.

Process Promotes Positives

Colleges and universities that have achieved accreditation of their safety and security departments find that other related benefits accrue, including:

  • Easier recruitment of officers.
  • Higher rate of worker retention.
  • Improved department morale.
  • Increased credibility.
  • Enhanced operations.
  • Department stability.
  • Reduced liability litigation.
  • Elevated reputation.

For instance, Anne Arundel Community College's public safety department has always been a non-sworn agency, but it is in the early stages of transitioning in the direction of sworn officers, says Gary Lyle, public safety director at the Arnold, Maryland, community college. While the department has already achieved accreditation as a non-sworn agency, earning the same certification as a sworn agency will require it to meet approximately 18 new code standards that are not currently applicable. In the transition, the department will likely operate as a "hybrid" agency, with both sworn and non-sworn officers, until a full transition occurs through officer attrition, Lyle says.

Generally, public safety departments must adhere to approximately 200 different standards to become accredited. In 2012, IACLEA redesigned its accreditation program to lower the associated costs to campus safety departments, and IACLEA rewrote its standards, having previously used CALEA's standards. As a service to campus public safety departments, the new IACLEA standards are available online at no charge, says Tedjeske, who chaired the IACLEA's Standards Review and Interpretation Committee. CALEA's standards are available for a fee.

Currently, 39 institutions have achieved accreditation through IACLEA and 15 more are in the process of pursuing accreditation.

Getting Started

When a campus public safety department joins IACLEA, it receives a step-by-step guide to the process of accreditation, Sampson says. Those steps include applying for accreditation; conducting a self-assessment; undergoing an on-site analysis and review; and, once accreditation is earned, ensuring ongoing maintenance. To begin the process, a department must get its ducks in a row, determining who will oversee the work of reviewing standards and ensuring the department is in compliance.

"Getting started is definitely the biggest challenge," Tedjeske says. "The department's organizational structure needs to be able to include someone to serve as accreditation manager. In small to midsize departments, this person can have other responsibilities, but must be able to devote a sufficient amount of time to keeping the agency on track.

"The other difficulty can be finding the right person to act as accreditation manager. This individual must be committed to achieving accreditation and must be detail oriented. The accreditation manager can either make or break the department's likelihood of success."

In addition to finding the right person to lead accreditation efforts, a department must ensure that it can fund the person's time spent on accreditation work. For instance, at the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh, Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Thomas Sonnleitner serves on the IACLEA Accreditation Commission, but his university has yet to submit its application for accreditation.

By examining the standards and working to meet them, public safety departments develop habits of self-assessment and ongoing improvement.

"We are trying to prepare for the process by addressing some of the issues that will be needed in order to get accreditation, such as personnel and equipment," Sonnleitner says. "But we have not yet submitted our application. It's mostly a resource issue and due to severe cutbacks in state funding here in Wisconsin, it is a challenge to fund these kinds of endeavors."

When funding and personnel are in place, departments have little trouble working their way through the standards, although it can be time-consuming, article sources admit. Departments are allowed up to three years to complete the entire process. "The standards and process provide a road map to organizational change," Tedjeske says. "IACLEA's standards establish best industry practices upon which the organization can change and grow. The standards provide valuable support in the educational environment, where technical expertise is sometimes needed."

At Georgia State, some of the most helpful steps of the process included having team members attend conferences and Police Accreditation Coalitions (PAC) meetings to train and network with other accredited agencies, Sampson says. PACs provide a networking system of support for agencies involved in or seeking accreditation. "We are a member of the Georgia PAC, which allows us to access resources, training, assistance with standards, mock assessments, and feedback for the accreditation programs for continuous improvement and compliance." Most PACs, explains Sampson, provide a roster of members as well as a listserver for frequent communication.

As the team reviewed each standard, explains Sampson, and it identified current policies that were not in compliance, members would work together, drawing on the expertise learned at conferences and from newfound connections in other agencies, to create new policies. For example, GSU's department implemented a new policy for the use by sworn personnel of OC (pepper) spray.

"We reached out to several local and out-of-state law enforcement agencies, requesting feedback, training techniques, and policies," says Sampson. "The information we gathered from these connections helped our agency decide how to write policy for the type of environment we are located in, what type of products to purchase, and the type of training needed-some contacts gave actual accounts of incidents regarding deployment in a school environment."

Once the new compliance policies are in place, departments must establish a formal system of providing training on the new written directives and documentation, Sampson says. At Georgia State, once this training was available, it was given to the entire agency. The department uses several formats, says Sampson. Personnel can attend shift briefings through an in-service class, via e-mail, or by accessing Desire2Learn—the university software learning environment where the policies are stored. Classes, which 10 to 30 sworn and non-sworn personnel attend at one time, cover topics such as grievance procedures, identify theft, and personal mobility vehicles. 

Finally, before a department is accredited, auditors from the accrediting body make an on-site visit and review. Georgia State's public safety department participated in mock assessments before representatives arrived at the campus, which was valuable, Sampson adds (see sidebar, "On-site Simulation for Success").

Facing Obstacles

While the process of meeting standards can be methodical, it is not without challenges. For instance, achieving buy-in from all necessary parties can be tricky. At Georgia State, the most difficult part of accreditation was "convincing upper management to trust the process and support us," Sampson says. "This also included convincing agency personnel of the mission and the changes to come."

But Sampson and her staff convinced their coworkers and university leaders to get on board by explaining the benefits it would offer their department and their campus. "It's fairly easy to sell this to leadership as part of an overall accreditation in all areas," Sampson says. "Adherence to law enforcement standards reinforces public confidence in police departments much the same as it does for hospitals and other professional services."

Currently, 39 institutions have achieved accreditation through IACLEA and 15 more are in the process of pursuing accreditation.

In addition to confirming support from all those involved in the process, it can be problematic simply to stick with the process for the long term. It takes a lot of time "to review and revise weak polices, and initiate new policies to meet compliance," Sampson says. But perseverance pays off with a more reputable, professional department and a safer university campus.

The CBO Role

While the brunt of the work of accreditation rests with staff in the campus public safety department, university leaders play an important role in the process.
"In addition to ensuring that the necessary resources were made available to achieve accreditation, my role was to encourage the department during this lengthy process," says Villanova's Valosky. "I believed the department's professionalism would be enhanced to the benefit of the entire university community. Given the importance of campus safety, especially in light of the unfortunate incidents that continue to occur at colleges and universities, this accreditation has showed that Villanova is proactively working to make our campus safer."

While earning accreditation can seem insurmountable, departments that have completed the accomplishment say it is doable and worth the effort. "Go one step at a time," Tedjeske says. "The process may seem daunting at the onset, but keep in mind that you have three years. Also remember that while it is challenging, your peers [and accrediting agencies] want you to succeed. With commitment and attentiveness, it is almost always achievable."

NANCY MANN JACKSON, Huntsville, Alabama, covers higher education business issues for Business Officer.

Leading the Accreditation Pack

In 2008, after 18 months of preparation, the public safety department at Anne Arundel Community College (AACC), Arnold, Maryland, became the first at a community college to be certified by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA). "We are proud to be the first community college in the country to be accredited," says Gary Lyle, director of the department. "Accreditation makes a statement to other law enforcement and public safety agencies, professions, and the college community that the AACC department of public safety meets the highest standards of professionalism."

To earn accreditation, AACC had to adhere to 205 different standards developed by IACLEA. The standards cover a wide range of public safety topics including patrol, organization and administration, crime prevention, recruitment, selection, training, communications, records, and property control.

  • Preparing to pass the site review. During the year and a half of preparation, Lyle and his department focused on the site review. They reviewed the standards and applied them to their department, used mock assessments, and purchased required equipment. A team of three IACLEA assessors came to campus and conducted a three-day review of the department's policies and procedures, management, operations, and support services. The assessors reviewed written materials, interviewed individual officers, and visited offices and off-site college locations where compliance was observed. After becoming the first two-year college in the country to earn accreditation, AACC was reaccredited in September 2011.
  • High hurdles. Gaining accreditation wasn't easy. Most challenging was the need "to educate some of the other departments on campus the we relied on to help us meet all the standards," Lyle says. "One area was hesitant to change its procedures to meet the accreditation standards. We actually had to have the vice president of our division direct them to change and meet the requirements."
  • In addition, Lyle had to devote one senior-level staffer's full working hours (as the accreditation manager) to prepare for the process for several months.
  • Rapid returns. But accreditation was worth the effort. Almost immediately, the department experienced benefits. "Officer morale and operational procedures were improved," Lyle says. "The process gave the college community and nearby residential communities confidence in the public safety team. The department also learned how much other areas of the college community appreciated its services. Additionally, it limited the department's liability and risk exposure because of demonstrating an adherence to a recognized set of standards for campus security."

The accreditation process also led to improvements in department structure, leadership, organization, general direction, and accountability. Hiring practices were amended to include examinations for physical and emotional stability. Property audit procedures were revised, and the department's longtime practices for interacting with other law enforcement agencies were put in writing.

Unexpectedly, Lyle says the process has made it easier to recruit and retain qualified personnel, and has led to the development of a closer relationship with some other departments on campus. In addition, department turnover decreased significantly. "We attribute this to the pride that the team felt as a result of being the first two-year college in the country to receive accreditation," Lyle says. "In addition, as a result of the higher level of professionalism and responsibilities associated with accreditation, the college implemented pay increases for all public safety staff within a certain salary range." 

Lyle views accreditation as an ongoing process to ensure that his department "is in compliance with national best practices covering all aspects of policies, procedures, and operations," he says. "Accreditation symbolizes professionalism, excellence, and competence."

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On-site Simulation for Success

While not required by IACLEA or CALEA, a mock assessment can be conducted for any accreditation program and is a way to achieve an effective quality control review. It's wise to schedule the simulation about six months prior to your on-site assessment time frame, using locally available practitioners. Most accreditation managers will check with their local Police Accreditation Coalitions (PACs) and try to have at least one trained assessor available.

The structure, timing, and costs are at each department's discretion. Most agencies rely on their specific PAC and follow its guidelines. While the process can replicate the entire on-site review, focus on the adequacy of the accreditation files.

Here are some actions to consider when conducting the mock evaluation:

  • Review all accreditation files or the majority of those that are complete, including time-sensitive files.
  • Create a static display of department vehicles and emergency equipment.
  • Include tours of all agency facilities, including the communication center,
    holding facilities, and evidence and property areas.

The total extent of the simulated assessment is an agency decision. As well, an exit interview is typically conducted with the accreditation manager and the department director. When the two agree on recommended steps, the department should make the corrections as soon as possible.

CONNIE SAMPSON is chief and assistant vice president for university police, Georgia State University, Atlanta.

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National Push for Campus Resilience

Keeping college campuses safe involves more than just emergency management; it requires "campus resilience," a term used to describe the process of managing change and disruptions and protecting and recovering the essential campus experience. Campus resilience includes preparation before a crisis happens, such as identifying essential needs and resources, and identifying ways to recover the ability to bring every critical function back to campus, according to Robin White, a program director at the Community and Regional Resilience Institute (CRRI).

CRRI is working with seven colleges and universities selected by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to participate in the department's Campus Resilience Pilot Program. The institutions selected for the pilot are working with state, local, and private sector partners to take active steps to enhance preparedness and campus resilience. Each institution is working to develop a campus emergency and resilience plan, and DHS hopes the work will establish best practices, resources, and tools to help campuses across the country to reduce violence on campus and bolster emergency planning processes for all types of crises.

Through the pilot program, DHS aims to "support campuses and communities in leveraging existing capabilities and seeking new and innovative approaches to making campuses more resilient," then DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano noted in a statement. "This is an important step in our work with the academic community to help campuses prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate crisis and emergency situations."

The colleges, which were competitively selected by DHS, include:

  • Drexel University, Philadelphia.
  • Eastern Connecticut State University, Willimantic.
  • Green River Community College, Auburn, Washington.
  • Navajo Technical University, Crownpoint, New Mexico.
  • Texas A&M University, College Station.
  • Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, Mississippi.
  • University of San Francisco.

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