Dekmar, president and chairman of the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, speaks at an accreditation ceremony for SLED Monday.
By Robert Kittle
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has regained national accreditation, a distinction held by very few law enforcement agencies. Out of 272 law enforcement agencies in South Carolina, only 33 have national accreditation, and out of about 18,000 nationwide only about 1,000 have it, or .056 percent.
The accreditation process involves meeting professional standards created by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, or CALEA. Those standards address all aspects of law enforcement, from the nature and type of equipment used, to protection of civil rights, to policies about the use of force.
An agency must first adopt the standards and do a self-assessment. CALEA then has a national assessment team go over the agency, its policies and procedures, and visit the agency for an on-site assessment.
At an accreditation ceremony Monday at SLED headquarters in Columbia, CALEA commission president and chairman Louis Dekmar said, "Many agencies are reluctant to have outsiders review their work and their processes and detail any deficiencies the agencies may have. It involves risk. It also requires the department to be open to change so that they can demonstrate that they work and conduct business in a way that meets contemporary law enforcement standards."
He said the process usually takes several years, but SLED did it in 10 months.
Part of that was because SLED had been accredited before, from 1994 until 2008. In 2008, then-SLED Chief Reggie Lloyd decided that going through the accreditation process was not cost-effective after major state budget cuts.
When Mark Keel became chief in 2011, he made re-gaining accreditation a priority.
He says having national accreditation helps SLED and the state. "It minimizes our exposure to liability. It demonstrates accountability to the public and it guarantees professional management practices. In practical terms, it confirms our commitment to excellence in law enforcement."
In the written program for the ceremony, he wrote, "When agencies meet this challenge citizens can be assured of equal protection under the law."