The Pleasantville Police Department is being recommended for state and national accreditation.

Local law-enforcement agencies undergo the lengthy accreditation process as a way of developing department standards that are in keeping with established procedures used by agencies across the country.

“We’ve had some stuff happen at the end of last month and beginning of this month, but now it’s all starting to come together,” police spokesman Capt. Rocky Melendez said.

The accreditation news comes as the department prepares for the swearing in tonight of acting Chief Jose Ruiz as the department’s permanent chief. Ruiz is expected to be sworn in at Pleasantville High School during the regular City Council meeting, Melendez said.

After two years of fine-tuning about 120 policies and procedures and implementing them within the work force, the Police Department has achieved a new level of professionalism, Melendez said.

Assessors make recommendations that are then forwarded to the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police and Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, or CALEA, a national organization. Funding for participation in the accreditation process was part of the 2010 budget, Melendez said. The total budgeted was $10,000, which paid for the assessment as well as upgrades to department equipment.

Melendez said most of the standards required for accreditation were being met, but it was just a matter of documenting them. The changes ensured that each shift was following exactly the same procedure, so one shift could not say, “We do it this way,” he said.

“It raises the bar and implements new standards to make us a more professional agency,” Ruiz said.

“Everything is coming together now, it’s a full circle,” Melendez said. “The citizens can be proud of their police department. We have great citizens, even though we work in a little rough town.”

During the past several years, the accreditation process has become more well known in the state, though CALEA was established in 1979.

The Ventnor City Police Department, for instance, was accredited about four years ago, Capt. Doug Biagi said.

“There are no gray areas. It made the department strong morally and ethically,” he said.

Although each town can have its own unique circumstances, the standards create a basic protocol to follow.

“It takes the personalities out of it. That way I can walk from my department to another accredited department, and as an officer I will be held to the same standards,” Biagi said. “You are held accountable to CALEA standards, which are so high, and as long as you follow the parameters on what you can or cannot do, you stay out of trouble. It creates a comfortable setting.”

Steve Mitchell, regional operations manager of CALEA, said the program was established after the 1960s, when there was a need to create more professional police departments and establish a standard to report the use of force.

“It will change the culture of an agency because of the accountability,” Mitchell said.

Contact Anjalee Khemlani:

609-272-7247

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