The Utah State University Police Department received its accreditation from the Utah Chiefs of Police Association on Wednesday.
According to a press release from the university, USU Police is the second university police department in the state to receive such accreditation. The accreditation required “compliance with all standards and requirements set forth in the state’s 32-chapter accreditation standards manual. In total, the manual has 173 standards, each with its own set of requirements.”
“We are very proud of the accredited designation, as it places our department into the top tier of law enforcement nationwide,” stated Public Safety Executive Director and Police Chief Earl “Torch” Morris in the press release. “Less than 10 percent of law enforcement agencies in the state are accredited.”
According to the press release, USU Police Capt. Kent Harris and Detective Erik Christensen worked together to evaluate department policy to bring it in line with the goal of accreditation. Harris is credited with spearheading the effort after bringing the idea to Morris.
“This accreditation makes sure our department is in compliance with policies that govern police departments in the state of Utah,” Harris stated in the press release. “Every year, laws change. We no longer have policies that are out of date or that don’t comply with state law. As a law enforcement agency, we need to be at industry standard because we are held at a higher standard.”
According to the Utah Chiefs of Police Association’s website, eight other departments in the state are accredited through the association, including the Logan City Police Department.
Morris told The Herald Journal there are other accrediting entities, like sheriffs’ associations, who can issue accreditations to compliant law enforcement agencies. Morris said the Utah Chiefs of Police Association represents an estimated 200 law enforcement agencies and is one of 23 accreditation entities in the country. Morris said they undergo an annual process nationally to receive the authority to issue accreditations.
“Utah State’s always been a good law enforcement agency, we simply decided that we wanted to be at a different level,” Morris said, explaining the goal is to be “recognized as a top-tier agency.”
To reach that status, Morris said there are “literally hundreds” of things to address that took the department a little over a year to accomplish. Morris said the process requires the agencies to physically show a policy, when and how it was implemented, and how it was presented and taught to employees.
As a result of the process, Morris said the policies are now more clearly defined as opposed to general do’s and don’ts.
For example, Morris spoke to policies surrounding use of force. Generally, Morris said use of force means the utilization of any kind of force against another individual.
“We specifically dial that down to anytime that you place your hands on another individual, in order to ensure compliance with a command or arrest or something of that nature, that constitutes force. And whether light or hard or whatever, it constitutes force,” Morris said. “In other words, if you place your hands on someone and exercise any degree of force, at whatever level, in order to bring about compliance, you need to ensure that there is a report that documents … the whos, whats, wheres and whys, I should say, of that particular policy. So it just really defines it more clearly.”
For Morris, the accreditation goes toward projecting and ensuring an expectation of professionalism for USU Police and other affiliated agencies that police USU learning centers around the state.
“And that’s really what accreditation does, is it enhances your level of professionalism,” Morris said.
Morris said USU Police will now focus on a federal accreditation through the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators — a process he estimates will take about a year.