The West Tisbury Police Department became the first Island department to become fully-accredited by the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission.
Police Chief Matthew Mincone traveled to Boston College Tuesday, along with officer Nik Wojtkielo, who has become the department’s accreditation manager, to receive the department’s certificate of accreditation.
“It created extra work, but it was important work,” said Mincone, who was the department’s accreditation manager before replacing Chief Daniel Rossi, who retired. “I tell people when you get certified, you have a bachelor’s degree. When you get accreditation, it’s your master’s degree.”
There are 78 fully-accredited departments across the state, 21 are certified and 116 are in the self-assessment stage, Mincone said.
Two other Martha’s Vineyard departments — Oak Bluffs and Edgartown — have been certified. The other three Island departments — Aquinnah, Tisbury, and Chilmark — are in the self-evaluation process.
To become accredited, departments have to meet and maintain standards established for the profession by other police professionals.
Mincone said there are more than 300 standards that have to be met in order to be accredited.
According to a press release, the standards reflect critical areas of police management, operations, and technical support activities, covering areas such as policy development, emergency response planning, training, communications, property and evidence handling, use of force and vehicular pursuits. The program not only sets standards for the law enforcement profession, but also for the delivery of police services to citizens of the commonwealth, the release states.
“Achieving accreditation from the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission is a very significant accomplishment and a recognition highly regarded by the law enforcement community,” said Donna Taylor Mooers, the commission’s executive director.
The department was evaluated in February while Chief Daniel Rossi was still in charge of the department. At the time, Mincone was the department’s accreditation manager. The assessment team found the department to be in compliance with the commission’s “acceptable standards,” according to the release.
“Going through the process initially requires intense self-scrutiny, and ultimately provides a quality assurance review of the agency,” Mooers said in the release.
Accreditation is granted for three years and participation is voluntary.
Among the benefits of accreditation are having norms to judge the department’s performance, provides ways to correct deficiencies, requires written policies and procedures, and promotes accountability. Accreditation can also minimize exposure to liability and enhances the public’s confidence in a department, according to the release.
“Police certification and accreditation serve to reassure the general public that the law enforcement profession is trained, prepared and ready to handle routine calls for service including large scale emergencies,” Mooers said. “Agency preparedness begins with having a current written directive system that incorporates best practices into agency policies and operational plans.”
Mincone said accreditation was the culmination of 2½ years of legwork. The department was certified last year and decided to push ahead for accreditation this year, he said. “If we waited, we would have to go back to square one,” he said.
Mincone said he brought Wojtkielo with him to the ceremony to demonstrate that the work continues. “It didn’t just stop in February because we got the award in June,” Mincone said.