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Forsyth County Sheriffs Office drops national accreditation

CUMMING — The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office has announced it will withdraw from the national accreditation program it had been in the process of reapplying with, effective Sept. 1.

The agency first received accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, a private organization that awards levels of standards to law enforcement agencies throughout the country, in 2002-03.

Each accreditation lasts for three years, and the sheriff’s office was waiting to hear whether it had received reaccreditation this fall.

The local agency will continue to participate and maintain its Georgia Law Enforcement Certification Program, a state accreditation standard administered by the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police.

That program also last for three years. It must reapply again in April.

The Georgia program bases its standards on best practices and professional requirements for law enforcement agencies.

It requires compliance with more than 130 standards, all of which the sheriff’s office “has continued to meet or exceed every year, making it one of only 119” out of about 700 statewide law enforcement agencies to meet state requirements.

“I made the decision after going through the process this last time,” said Forsyth County Sheriff Duane Piper. “I noticed some things that concerned me about what national accreditation wanted to require that would be a direct conflict with state laws, specifically the use of deadly force.”

He said the national program wanted to add to state law.

“The state says no agency can make policy revisions to modify state law, and they were insisting we actually do that,” Piper said. “When your policies start varying from state laws, that’s confusing to deputies, and that causes problems to them delivering services to the public.”

Another reason the sheriff’s office is withdrawing is due to the difference in costs.

“It’s basically the same standards, and the cost of the national program is considerably more than the state,” Piper said.

According to Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police website, “each applicant is required to pay a $375 certification fee. Agencies also will be responsible for the travel, lodging and meals of the assessors during the pre-certification review and on-site evaluation.”

An initial accreditation fee for the national program is listed on the CALEA website at $16,125 for an agency with between 200 and 999 full-time employees.

The sheriff’s office employs about 365 people, according to Robin Regan, a spokesman for the agency.

In addition to initial fees, CALEA requires on-site costs for assessment, including lodging and airfare for assessors.

Annual continuation fees for an agency the size of the local agency cost $5,000, which includes estimated on-site charges.

Piper noted this does not include paying for his employees to attend conferences that can be anywhere in the country, given it is a national program.

For example, he said, they would have had to fly to Miami for a conference this fall just to find out whether they received reaccreditation.

The state program encourages agencies to attend conferences, too, he said, but all are within Georgia.

“I’ve spoken to other sheriff’s offices and police agencies who have dropped national accreditation and several others who are in the process,” Piper said. “Their reasons are very similar to mine.”