FORSYTH COUNTY - An international law enforcement accreditation commission has decided the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office should be an example to others looking for the best practices in the field.
At its November meeting in Salt Lake City, the Virginia-based Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) designated the Sheriff’s Office as a Flagship Agency. Forsyth County is the first and only Sheriff’s Office in the state to receive such status, and one of only seven in the state to even be accredited by the commission. The Peachtree City Police Department also received the designation.
“Other agencies look at those that have been designated as flagship for leadership in the accreditation process and how to get it accomplished, so we’re very honored,” said Sheriff Ted Paxton.
Paxton said his office does everything it can to have “the most professional agency and offer to the public the most professional level of service,” but that it certainly wasn’t “looking for an award.”
In fact, the office was just trying to get re-accredited, something it does every three years, he said.
“Through the dedication of every member of the Sheriff’s Office ... these are the rewards,” said Paxton.
Jim Lockwood is the Sheriff’s Office’s Accreditation Manager. He joined the office in 2005, two years after it was first accredited in 2003. He said he’s already started work on 2012’s process.
“Every three years you have to go through it again, it’s a constant thing,” said Lockwood. “It’s a fairly comprehensive review of the agency.”
He said the Flagship status means CALEA feels the Sheriff’s Office has “state-of-the-art standards and policies” in areas like high-liability and use-of-force issues, safety, employee training, and more.
Lockwood said three assessors — a major from Florida, a sergeant from Missouri and a civilian accreditation manager from Memphis, Tenn. — came Aug. 22 through 26 and reviewed all the office’s files and policies, conducted citizen and deputy interviews and held a public hearing.
The only things wrong they could find out of the roughly 463 multi-step standards, said Lockwood, were two filing issues.
Paxton said the commission was impressed by the office’s Neighborhood Watch program. It was named “Most Exemplary Neighborhood Watch Program” in the nation by the National Sheriffs’ Association in June, and has stemmed the tide of property crime in the county, he said.
“They were amazed at the tremendous reduction in crime that we’ve seen in the years of 2005, 2006 and 2007,” he said. “And they felt that was due to the work we’ve done with the neighborhood watch programs.”
The awards given to the office by the International Association of Chiefs of Police for excellence in law enforcement, traffic enforcement and youth safety also factored in, said Paxton.
Lt. Col. Gene Moss, who runs the Enforcement Bureau, said each cycle the accreditation process gets harder, because more is expected of the Sheriff’s Office.
“They go through everything in the agency with a fine toothed comb, so to speak,” he said.
Lt. Col. Dennis Nelson agreed. He oversees the Headquarters Bureau, which is responsible for the process. He’s been involved in the CALEA accreditation process for more than 20 years, he said.
“It’s definitely a very good reflection on the way we operate and the way our employees operate here,” he said. “We set the bar pretty high, and now we have to keep it up.”