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The VCU Police Department received official notice of accreditation from the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators on Sept. 9. The process, which typically takes three years, took the department only 18 months.
“There is really a decision-making process when deciding who you want to be accredited by,” said Shana Mell, the accreditation manager at VCU PD.
Mell described the IACLEA as the gold standard for campus law enforcement. The association’s website boasts representation of more than 1,200 colleges in more than 20 countries. VCU is the first Virginia state school to have a police department accredited by the group.
They are the only law enforcement accreditor “tailored specifically for campus law enforcement.”
Prior to IACLEA the department at VCU was accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, which accredits agencies at the state police level down to university departments.
“We wanted a program that was specifically written for campus law enforcement,” Mell said.
Accreditation ensures the department’s practices are following what are considered industry standards. Every four years assessors from IACLEA will return to campus to reevaluate the department.
Mell said having this stamp of approval from industry professionals reduces the liability the department could face in the future.
“Agencies report that not only are they less liable in court, but they go to court less because of the policies that have been reviewed by experts in the field,” she said.
IACLEA has a list of 210 standards that VCU PD had to meet in order to gain accreditation.
When the department made the decision to seek accreditation they signed a contract with IACLEA and received a list of 210 standards that VCU PD had to meet.
From there Mell headed up the 18-month process of reviewing standards with current practices, revising the existing 150 policies VCU PD had, and training officers to understand the new standards.
In July assessors from IACLEA came to VCU for the first time to review the department.
“They spent three really intense days getting to know us as an agency inside and out,” Mell said.
This included the assessors listening to any community input and criticisms of the department.
At the end of their visit VCU PD did not receive any noncompliance issues, which are given when any of the 210 standards are unmet.
“Assessors found the VCU PD to be a dedicated team of campus law enforcement and security professionals,” the assessors wrote in their final report. “The agency is creative and on the cutting edge of campus law enforcement profession.”
VCU police chief John Venuti said the accreditation was a major feat for the department and it amasses the changes VCU PD has made over the past four years.
“We have reduced officer-involved use of force, there’s been a reduction in complaints on our officers and we’ve made VCU a safer place,” he said. “Accreditation is like the bow on a package — it pulls together and highlights the services we provide and the accomplishments we’ve achieved.”
New decals have been ordered for all VCU PD cruisers that will have the IACLEA logo on them.
The department will be officially recognized for this achievement at the annual IACLEA conference in Nashville next June.