Reality Check: What does APD's Accreditation mean
The Ashevillle Police Department is under review this week, hoping to get re-accredited. But in News Thirteen's 'Reality Check' some taxpayers are questioning if the five thousand dollars a year, the city spends to complete the process worth it. The agency that assesses APD's policies re-accredited the department in 2011 despite a major scandal and mismanagement of crucial evidence inside APD's evidence room.
CALEA, The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement, has sent two of their own independent assessors to review APD's procedures and report back to CALEA's national commission. Since 1994 APD has received accreditation from CALEA that contracts with APD and many other police departments across the state signing multi-year contracts to get reviewed every three years.
"We review the equipment that they have, how evidence is collected, how it's preserved," said Susan Maycock, a CALEA assessor brought in by the national agency.
"The accreditation process itself is to establish professionalism within an organization," said APD Assistant Chief Wade Wood. "It's not going to be a catch-all for anything that goes on in any organization."
That goes to the question whether CALEA's re-accreditation certification for police departments actually should mean anything to the public when a department touts they're an accredited agency. CALEA accredited APD despite APD's 2011 evidence room scandal.
'We are well aware of the incident that happened with the former custodian of the property," said Baycock. "And it's in my opinion it was an isolated incident. You have one employee who did not follow policies and procedures."
But that was in fact, just one part of the evidence room scandal. In 2005 as News Thirteen reported, CALEA determined APD's evidence room "Annual inspections were minimal" and that "Only ten items were even audited."
But News Thirteen Reported, CALEA re-accredited APD. In 2008, CALEA found property evidence "outstanding in all respects...and property areas very well maintained." But in 2011 as the evidence room scandal unraveled, with missing guns, drugs and money, all key criminal evidence for cases was missing. Testimony during the investigation revealed the evidence room was riddled with mismanagement years prior to when the story broke in 2011.
"I just think things should be monitored more carefully so these kinds of outbreaks don't happen," said Dawn Neese, of Fairview. Neese questions why the city has paid tens of thousands of dollars over twenty years for assessments and still got re-accreditated in 2011 when CALEA was aware a full SBI investigation was underway.
"I feel like it's just the novelty of saying they're accredited and not really having any value or meaning," said Neese.
But CALEA assessors like Susan Maycock, who has years of police experience, maintains CALEA has high standards that help police agencies uncover problems. She re-iterated The Commission's job is to review policies and procedures and has seen first hand how APD's evidence room has improved.
"I do know from when we went down there today the custodian there now has put in a number of extra measures for instance when a custodian goes in, two have to go in one is never allowed in the room alone," said Maycock.
CALEA is not a watchdog group. News Thirteen contacted CALEA's headquarters in Gainsville, Virginia to ask how many police agencies their Commission has rejected for accreditation. Maya Mitchell, a regional director over North Carolina for CALEA, said she could not answer the question, saying the agency doesn't keep track of those numbers, allowing departments that don't meet standards to pull out of the process.
by Kimberly King Follow Kim on Twitter @KimKingReports