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UP on the way to reaccreditation

For the past three days, University Police was under strict observation. Assessors from the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation examined the ins and outs of UP to make sure it was qualified to be accredited for the next three years.

According to UP spokesman Michael Klingebiel, the assessors prepared a positive overall recommendation. The final step in the accreditation process will come in February when the Commission will take a final vote.

The Commission holds police departments to a set of 272 standards. The standards cover areas ranging from officer behavior to how files are kept.

However, not all of the standards apply to USF. They include requirements dealing with things UP does not deal with, such as K-9 units and court security.

Of the applicable standards, a police department must meet no less than 80 percent of the requirements to be eligible for accreditation.

According to the UP Accreditation Manager Meg Ross, UP met all but one applicable standard, putting them well above the minimum.

The one incomplete standard states a department must receive a financial audit from an outside source. USF audits UP, and there is confusion as to whether the University counts as an outside source.

Ross said UP just writes that requirement off as part of the 20 percent cushion “rather than argue with (the Commission) what ‘outside’ is.”

The Commission took phone commentary from the public during the department’s assessment. The specific results of the calls will not be available until the Commission’s final report on UP is completed.

The results of the phone calls from the last accreditation were available. They were all listed as “pro” and mostly came from administrative offices around campus. No students called in last time.

On Tuesday, UP held a display of its various vehicles and equipment in the Sun Dome for the assessors to examine.

“(The display) allowed them to observe that we meet some of the standards that are observable standards,” Ross said. “They also interviewed the officers that were standing by the vehicles.”

On Wednesday night, one of the assessors went on a ride-along with Officer Rick Meagher as he patrolled campus.

“It went very well. We were active last night as usual,” Meagher said. “Just the normal calls for the area – theft calls, medical emergencies and so forth.”

He also said the assessor quizzed him on various aspects of the department throughout the night, such as how up to date his equipment was and what kind of response times UP has.

The overall assessment finished early Thursday morning. UP’s accreditation is now up to the Commission, which will make the final decision this February.

“The commissioners will decide -based on the report turned in by the assessors and the questions that they ask (Ross and Police Chief Robert Johnson) – whether or not we should be reaccredited,” Ross said. “They don’t ordinarily go against the recommendation of their assessors.”UP first received accreditation in 2000, and was reaccredited in 2003. It is one of only five university police stations in Florida to be accredited by the Commission. The other four are Florida International University, Florida State University, University of Florida and University of North Florida.

“(Accreditation) goes a long way,” Meagher said. “(It) means a lot to the agency and should mean a lot to the University community, period. Not every agency out there gets to be accredited.”