FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office hopes to earn the “blue ribbon seal of approval,” by getting national accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, or CALEA.
Sheriff Ron Freeman has reinstituted the drive after the department discontinued participation in late 2015 under Sheriff Duane Piper, who called the program costly and redundant.
In January, Freeman took office and vowed to get the national accreditation again.
He said the assessment team will only take into account what the department has done since applying for accreditation this year, rather than considering the former withdrawal.
If awarded accreditation, the department will have to reapply every three years.
“We have made a lot of changes that are forward looking and progressive,” Freeman said. “They look at that now and will during the reaccreditation process in three years to make sure we are actually doing that. They’re making sure we can prove it rather than just putting it on a piece of paper.”
One of the first steps was taken Aug. 14 when a team of assessors from CALEA visited Forsyth County to examine the department’s policy and procedures, management, operations and support services.
“[CALEA] is proof to our citizens that we’re taking the best practices and standards known throughout the world for law enforcement and we’re voluntarily willing to meet those standards,” Freeman said.
Community members spoke about the department saying it has improved since Freeman took office. Improvements include increased communication, more detectives focusing on narcotics, opening the South Precinct and the deployment of additional school resource officers.
State Rep. Todd Jones, whose district encompasses south Forsyth County, said his constituents appreciated the South Precinct opening quickly, which he said showed the department cared about them.
He also said the addition of school resource officers shows students that police are approachable.
“Forsyth County is basically a bedroom community that’s built on the idea of great schools, parks and people,” Jones said. “The idea that we’re putting more resources in the school system was a great sign to the citizens in terms of what we want to do for our children.”
Freeman said the organization is looking at the department to “walk the talk” and show them both on paper and in person they follow protocol.
“It’s not just that we’re saying we do it, we have proof we do it,” Freeman said. “We’ve been in communication with them for weeks. They ride with our deputies, interview our command staff and look at our files.”
Forsyth County is a special place, Freeman said, and he wants to make sure the sheriff’s office is included as a great county entity.
“Forsyth County has so many No. 1s in the state that are so great,” Freeman said. “People want to know and have that expectation that we can put that No. 1 behind us as well. This is another step for us to be transparent in meeting those best practices.”
Freeman said the accreditation team will notify the department later this year on the results.
“We put in hard work for this, but even more, the men and women put in hard work here every day,” Freeman said. “When you’re doing well and have great people who work for the sheriff’s office doing good, hard work every day, you’re meeting most of the best standards.”
Because the department was accredited before, Freeman said they pretty much already knew how to meet the standards.
“We’ve taken it further,” Freeman said. “We’re not just doing this so we can stick a national accreditation moniker behind our name. We’re doing this so we can actually get better at how we serve our citizens. If we look at it from that standpoint, that’s where the value comes in. We’ll continue to serve them at the highest levels we can.”