Evansville police achieve accreditation

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Gina Duwe
Friday, February 7, 2014

EVANSVILLE--The Evansville Police Department recently became the smallest police agency in the state to achieve accreditation through the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Accreditation Group.

The accreditation means the department's policies and procedures have met 235 standards set by WILEAG's governing board. 

“It's pretty intense as far as the requirements a law enforcement agency has to do to comply,” said Burlington Police Chief Peter Nimmer, lead assessor for the team that reviewed Evansville's application. “Especially for an agency that size. It's even more impressive to be able to accomplish that.”

The assessment team from WILEAG, which conducted a three-day, onsite review, was “overall impressed” with the department, Nimmer said.

“What I found is there's definitely a good interaction between the community and the police department, and they work well together,” he said. “That was evident by some public comments made by the school district officials, the mayor and the city (officials).”

Evansville Police Chief Scott McElroy and Sgt. Patrick Reese, accreditation manager, led the three-year process that included writing and/or revising 83 police department policies. Within those policies, staff had to cover 235 required standards and find more than 500 “proofs,” or examples in police reports that showed the department was following the specific policy.

If a standard says you handcuff all people placed in the back of a squad, you have to find a police report to show you do that, McElroy said.

The achievement is more impressive because of Evansville's size, Nimmer said. Evansville has nine full-time officers and three part-time officers.

“Everybody had a taste of what it was all about and what it meant to be accredited,” Nimmer said.

Evansville residents should feel good about the process because it means the department's policies and procedures have been reviewed by law enforcement members outside the community, McElroy said.

“We are operating at a very professional level,” he said. “We brought a lot of pride into the agency.”

McElroy said he didn't know how much it cost the department to become accredited. The department increased its part-time budget, he said, and “the biggest cost was probably losing manpower on the street.”

The city contracted with consultant Tim Kriz on an annual contract that cost between $1,500 and $2,000. According to the accreditation group's website, agencies are charged $300 for an initiation fee, $600 for an annual fee, and a typical onsite visit costs $600.

McElroy said the process would not have started without encouragement from Mayor Sandy Decker.

“You have to have your administrative support from your city government, or it's not going to happen,” he said.

The Evansville City Council has talked over the last few years about top-notch service being the city's mission, Decker said.

“This was just a program for looking through the entire department and using best practices,” she said. “It takes a real commitment to have a peer review, to have someone else come in for three days and look at everything you're doing. It was daunting, but it was a good result.”

The process resulted in some changes, including streamlining evidence procedures, installation of video cameras inside and outside the office and adding panic buttons in interview rooms.

The department also is the first agency to receive accreditation with all electronic files under the governing board's latest edition of standards.

Evansville will be recognized at the Chiefs of Police Conference in Wisconsin Dells next week.

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