Janesville70°

Police invite scrutiny

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Mike DuPre'
April 7, 2008
— Most folks don’t like others poking into their business, but the Janesville Police Department has again invited the scrutiny of its peers to make sure—and show the public—that it is performing to the highest level of police professional standards.

The department is wrapping up the process to again win the blessings of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Accreditation Group.


The department first was accredited in 2000. Only 16 of Wisconsin’s 350 police departments are so recognized, and another 10 are in the process, Deputy Chief Steve Kopp said.


“It’s very important,” he said. “It means we’re making sure that we’re following the accepted body of professional standards. … And there’s a certain element of pride in being an accredited agency. Our employees take pride in that.


“It’s a pretty significant process.”


Janesville police revamped their entire procedure manual eight years ago to win accreditation, Kopp said.


“That was a huge effort back in 2000.”


The original accreditation was supposed to be for five years, but the local department received an indefinite extension for re-accreditation because of two major changes: the hiring of new Police Chief Neil Mahan at the end of 2004 and the move into the department’s new headquarters in the middle of 2005.


“Those were pretty significant changes and had an impact on our policies and procedures,” Kopp said.


But because departmental policy was rewritten in 2000, no major changes are in the works now, he said.


“It seems that little changes always come along to tweak a policy to meet standards,” Kopp said, “but it’s more changes in policy wording than procedural changes.”


The next steps will be a three-day visit from an assessment team composed of three police professionals from other Wisconsin departments and opportunities for the public to comment.


The assessors will be Chief Ann Wellens of the South Milwaukee Police Department, administrative assistant Ann Wissing from the Muskego Police Department and Capt. Tim Kriz, retired from the West Allis Police Department.


The assessors will examine Janesville police policies and procedures and the documentation—police reports and news accounts, for example—that shows local cops are following 233 accreditation standards.


“They can be pretty picky about some of the standards,” Kopp said.


The assessors also will interview employees in the department’s specialty areas, such as evidence and property control and investigation, Kopp said.


Accreditation not only instills internal pride and exhibits the department’s professionalism to the public, Kopp said, but it also provides an element of liability defense if officers’ actions are criticized or questioned.


The assessors will make their recommendations to the board of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Accreditation Group. The board decides whether accreditation is warranted.


Janesville police are shooting for a re-accreditation awards ceremony in August.


“A lot of people put a lot of time and effort into this,” Kopp noted.


Public input on cops invited

Local residents and employees of the Janesville Police Department are invited to comment on the department’s policies and procedures as the agency seeks to earn re-accreditation from a state police organization.


A three-person team of assessors from Wisconsin Law Enforcement Accreditation Group will visit Janesville in the middle of the month.


As part of the on-site assessment, employees and community members are invited to comment at a public information session at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 16, in City Council Chambers on the fourth floor of the Municipal Building, 18 N. Jackson St.


“This is an opportunity for them to speak out about the police department and the services we provide,” Deputy Chief Steve Kopp said. “It’s not meant to be a gripe session, but comments on whether we comply with professional standards.”


The public can peruse the department’s policies and procedures. Copies are available at the police department lobby, 100 N. Jackson St., and at the reference desk of the Hedberg Public Library.


If an individual cannot speak at the public information session but would like to comments, he or she can do so by phone or in writing.


The public can call (608) 373-3436 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 16.


Written comments should be addressed to: Wisconsin Law Enforcement Accreditation Group, 4760 Schneider Drive, Oregon, WI, 53575.


Telephone comments and appearances at the public meeting are limited to 10 minutes and must address the agency’s ability to comply with the state accreditation group’s standards.


For more information regarding the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Accreditation Group or the accreditation process, please write the group at the address listed above or contact Kopp at (608) 755-3213.



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