Chief Treviño spent 27 years with the San Antonio Police Department where he served as Interim Chief and retired as the Assistant Chief. During his tenure, San Antonio PD achieved CALEA certification. I had an opportunity to sit down with him and learn more about the CALEA accreditation process.
What is CALEA?
The Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) is an organization that has established what is widely considered to be the “Gold Standard” in public safety in terms of best practice standards. For an agency to receive CALEA accreditation, it must meet 207 standards for best practices in law enforcement.
The Accreditation Process
To achieve accreditation, an agency must go through a 5-step process:
Enrollment: Once enrolled in the accreditation process, the agency will receive access to CALEA standards and supporting documents.
Self-Assessment: This is a time for an agency to examine it policies and procedures to compare against CALEA standards, and make any changes as necessary
Assessment: When an agency feels it’s ready, CALEA representatives will conduct an assessment and report its findings to the CALEA Commission
Commission Review and Decision: The Board of CALEA Commissioners will review the assessment and determine whether the agency has met the standards
Maintenance and Recertification: Every three years, an agency must be assessed by CALEA to ensure standards are being maintained.
Benefits of CALEA Accreditation
There are several benefits to an agency receiving CALEA accreditation, one of which is community engagement. CALEA not only advocates for agencies to involve community stakeholders in the process of setting police standards, but they will actively engage the community during the assessment process. Having community leaders involved in this process helps strengthen the relationship between law enforcement agencies and the community they serve. CALEA can also provide guidance on best practices for engaging with the community in a time when the traditional methods of engagement may no longer be relevant to younger generations.
Another benefit of accreditation is increased confidence and support from political leadership, some of whom don’t fully understand the truly unique profession of law enforcement. By having a recognized entity such as CALEA provide an objective assessment of a police department and confirm it meets the highest standards for the industry, government leadership is more likely to support the agency. This is especially critical if there is a high-profile, negative incident, which leads to another benefit of accreditation: defensibility. When an agency has shown it practices the highest standards of the profession, they are in a better position to defend themselves against legal actions against them.
Finally, when an agency is CALEA accredited, it increases the accountability within the department and can reduce risk. When policies and best practice standards are well defined and clearly communicated throughout the organization - and, importantly, are adhered to and enforced - it promotes a culture of integrity and professionalism. When agencies are professional and can demonstrate they hold themselves accountable, their legitimacy and support within the community increases which is important to establish in advance of a critical incident.
First, there is a cost to CALEA accreditation as well as a significant time commitment, which is a potential obstacle for an agency to overcome. Agencies should plan on hiring or reallocating civilian and sworn personnel to manage the accreditation process and maintenance of the program. Chief Treviño noted that he had to hire two civilians and reassign three sworn staff to get through the accreditation process.
There may also be some internal cultural obstacles within the agency, or long-established patterns of practice that - while not impossible to overcome - may cause resistance among the membership. Depending on the agency, the implementation of CALEA’s 207 standards may represent significant changes to existing procedures around use of force reporting, as an example. Changes that are, or are perceived to be, time consuming or difficult or add complexity to the process may receive pushback from rank and file. Remember, CALEA certification is not just about having a policy that says something should be done - it’s about showing that the agency actually does what the policy says, so the membership has to participate in these changes.
Although the CALEA standard may seem daunting to an agency, it’s really just a baseline for how police agencies should operate, and there are areas where agencies can - and probably should - go beyond what accreditation prescribes. As an example, CALEA’s standard for BWC review is relatively minimal. While some review is recommended, there is certainly room for agencies to do a more thorough analysis of what is contained in the data - a task that can be accomplished with Truleo. Additionally, CALEA’s focus on community engagement and transparency aligns with Truleo’s capacity to help law enforcement share with their stakeholders how officers are interacting with members of the community.
To his knowledge, Chief Treviño had not heard of a CALEA accredited agency being subject to a consent decree. While there are no magic bullets that will prevent them, maintaining high standards of practice like CALEA and implementing analysis and accountability tools like Truleo can increase an agency’s defense against allegations of a pattern and practice of rights violations.
Chief Treviño - Advisor
FORMER INTERIM CHIEF OF POLICE
SAN ANTONIO POLICE DEPARTMENT
Chris Sansone - Host
DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC PARTNERS
Truleo analyzes police body camera videos using artificial intelligence to help promote police professionalism. Truleo worked with FBI National Academy alumni to build the models that deconstruct officers’ language into professionalism and risk metrics to help agencies promote best practices, train new officers, and mitigate risk. To learn more about Truleo’s mission to improve trust in the police with body camera analytics, visit www.truleo.co.