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Credit where credit is due?
By David Rogers/ [email protected]
Friday, December 3, 2004

Three years ago the Amesbury Police Department became the third accredited department in the state. In less than two weeks, the department will be looking to extend its accreditation for another three years.

Amesbury Police Officer Glenn Chaput said inspectors from the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission will be conducting a three-day inspection of the station starting Dec. 13.

In preparation for the visit, the department will be conducting a mock inspection sometime next week. Chaput said the internal inspection will give them a chance to make sure they are in compliance with the accreditation standards and to give them a chance to remedy areas that are not.

"It allows us to fix anything that's obvious," Chaput said.

The accreditation process consists of 252 mandatory standards with another 121 optional standards. In order to achieve re-accreditation, the department will have to meet every mandatory standard as well as 60 percent of the optional standards. Among the areas scrutinized are police station records, vehicles, personnel training, the use of weapons and station security. Officers will also be subject to interviews.

After the inspections are completed, the judges will sit down with Police Chief Michael Cronin and other officers to discuss their observations. A three-month period follows before a decision is made. But Chaput said he and others will have a good idea beforehand whether they passed.

The three officers who will be assessing the station come from Newburyport, Lowell and Andover.

While police officials conceded the accreditation process consumes a lot of time and resources, they agree it's well worth it.

Chaput said the accreditation serves as another guide for officers to follow while they are on duty.

"There's no gray areas, you know what you can do and want you can't do," he said. "Structure takes out the personalities of a supervisor because you know what you're supposed to do."

An accredited police department also will see a reduction of its liability insurance, which helps defray the costs of the accreditation process. In 2001, the Police Department was charged a $2,000 application fee.

But for Lt. Gary Ingham, it's not about the money -- it's about trying to meet and exceed the standards of the MPAC on a daily basis.

"It raises the bar to keep our level of professionalism up," Ingham said.

The police departments currently accredited are Waltham, Watertown, Amherst and Rowley. As larger police departments, such as the State Police and the MBTA Police, become accredited, Ingham said there will be more pressure for the state to make it mandatory.

In addition to conducting an internal inspection, the Police Department is also seeking input from the community in the form of letters and phone calls. Written comments may be forwarded to the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission, 32 North Main St., Andover, MA 01810 before Dec. 15. For information, citizens are invited to inspect the polices and procedure manual at the School Street station.
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