SEA ISLE CITY — Calling it “a very, very proud day in our history,” Mayor Leonard Desiderio acknowledged the city’s police department Monday morning for its tenacity in achieving accreditation from the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police.

Earning the recognition, which 20 percent of New Jersey law enforcement agencies have, requires implementing policies and procedures that conform to 100 written standards that are acknowledged as being the best practices for law enforcement officers and agencies.

Sea Isle City is the ninth law agency in Cape May County to receive accreditation, making Cape May County, with 70 percent of its agencies accredited, tops in southern New Jersey. As of March 20, there were seven agencies with accreditation in Atlantic County, three in southern Ocean County and one in Cumberland County.

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“This shows you the quality of law enforcement in Cape May County,” said Sheriff Gary Schaffer, whose office, along with the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office, is among the county’s accredited agencies. “Cape May County should be extremely proud.”

“We are here for a very happy occasion, a very proud moment,” Desiderio said. “Much hard work and time and effort went into Sea Isle receiving this.”

“Sea Isle City can be proud of its professionalism and the highest standards of law enforcement,” said Harry Delgado, accreditation program manager for NJSACOP. “It is joining a very exclusive group of law enforcement agencies.”

Delgado said the department’s ability to regroup after Hurricane Sandy destroyed its police building and forced it to relocate to an unused school building made this accreditation a special one.

“They retrofitted this building and made a school a functional police building and met the standards,” Delgado said. “That’s impressive. The adversity they had to face and overcome is very impressive.”

“We never had a book of policies,” said Chief Tom D’Intino, who made accreditation a priority starting in 2010. “We never had a departmental book from A to Z. My goal was to make sure we had it.”

Lt. Tom McQuillen is the man he chose to see that his wish was granted. “He was the thorn in my side,” D’Intino said. And by extension, the thorn in the sides of the department’s 22 full-time and 24 seasonal officers.

McQuillen, for his part, credited retired State Police Lt. Dan Walsh with being the thorn in his side that kept the department on track and able to achieve accreditation within an established timeframe. Walsh is a consultant with the Rodgers Group, a public safety training organization headquartered in Island Heights.

“Our primary focus was One, setting up the new police building, and Two, showing compliance with all the rigorous standards,” McQuillen said. “We were focused but we would never have attained this without Lt. Walsh.”

Accreditation also entitles cities to insurance discounts, something Delgado said makes taxpayers happy. It also, McQuillen said, reduces the city’s risk and liability exposure.

“It’s a lot more paperwork, but we’re living in a litigious society,” McQuillen said. “You have to have the policies. If you don’t, that’s how you get burned in a lawsuit.”

Also present to congratulate the Police Department for its achievement were Cape May County Freeholders Gerald Thornton and Marie Hayes, city solicitor Paul Baldini, Councilman Bill Kehner, and county Director of Operations Mike Laffey.

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Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.

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