By Kevin Wilson
The Portales Police Department has received state accreditation through a program sponsored by three state organizations.
The accreditation marks the successful completion of a process that has taken more than 2 1/2 years since the accreditation was made available through the New Mexico Association of Chiefs of Police, the New Mexico Municipal League and the New Mexico Self Insurers’ Fund.
The Portales Police Department is the first law enforcement agency to receive the honor, an NMACP official said. The department will be recognized in December in Albuquerque, during the NMACP’s convention.
“It gives us a sense of pride at the very least,” Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry said. “Uniformity is going to be better for the community, and I believe it will allow for a better product of law enforcement.”
The accreditation program is similar to a national program offered by the Commission for the Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), but it is tailored to departments in New Mexico.
“The CALEA standards have a lot more standards in place than what we looked at,” said Bill Fulginiti, the executive director of the NMML. “A lot of them fit larger law enforcement organizations. We really wanted to concentrate on law enforcement agencies with a size to fit New Mexico.”
The state program has 217 different standards, including:
• Storage of data,
• Dignitary protection,
• Proper gear for traffic stops and
• Dispatch procedures.
“You have policies in those 217 critical areas, and there’s consistency,” said R.L. Stockard, state accreditation manager and a former captain with the state police. “When you have consistencies in the use of force, handling of juveniles, handling of evidence … that certainly gives the constituents a much higher professionalism from their department.”
The program was created nearly three years ago with two purposes in mind. Having a consistent set of standards would improve the level of law enforcement. Also, it would lower the risk of injuries and lawsuits, meaning insurance premiums also drop.
“What we’re trying to do is get great law enforcement policies as standards. Hopefully we’ll make a better system for the law enforcement agency,” Fulginiti said. “Good management practices will help us in the insurance side as well.”
Berry said the insurance is a big part of what makes the accreditation attractive to a department. However, he also believes the department can do a better job with clear standards and policies.
“What it really means for the department is that there are standards across the department, from day shift to night shift to swing shift,” Berry said. “I think it’s helped the officers. They have a documented standard.”
When the PPD (or any law enforcement agency) applies for accreditation, it is given a two-year period to develop the standards for the department and make sure those standards are practiced before the evaluation process.
Portales had the first department ready for evaluation, and received its accreditation shortly before Santa Fe.
“The models are Portales and Santa Fe,” said Lanny Maddox, president of the NMACP. “We’re going to use that as the basis of where we go from this point.
“That will be a permanent record, that Portales was the first to achieve accreditation. That is a success story in itself.”
Berry said the accreditation was the work of the entire department, from Chief Jeff Gill to Detective Johnny Parker (evidence control) to several others.
“Chief Gill has really been a driving force,” Berry said. “Capt. (Scott) Chambers has been working to push this through. Judy Irvin, our records clerk, has been doing a lot of footwork.”