Striving for ‘the Perfect’ in Policing

UAlbany’s University Police Departmnet is still one of only 12 in SUNY to have achieved NYS accreditation. (Photo by Paul Miller)

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 27, 2016) — The bar for police departments everywhere is raised higher by the year, but the officers of the University Police Department aren’t looking to clear it by an inch.

UPD Chief Frank Wiley expressed pride at the department’s recent re-accreditation from New York’s Law Enforcement Accreditation Program (LEAP), but added, “Our goal is to be compared to the ideal police department. How closely do we match that ideal? Accreditation is just a step in that process.”

UPD first achieved accreditation in 2011 and, according to Wiley and UPD’s reaccreditation team, the process began at that moment to meet all 110 highly rigorous LEAP standards of administrative, operational and training excellence for 2016. In the office’s filing cabinets is a folder for each standard, each one crammed with five years of supporting documents.

Within the files is proof that UPD officers have accomplished 16 hours of state-mandated training in firearms per year for every weapon UPD officers carry, plus yearly verification of active shooter and defensive tactics training, the use of OC spray, Tasers, body cameras, and many other operational tools. Personnel must also master the legal end of their jobs, taking classroom study in new laws, and participating in moct courts.

UAlbany’s force is still one of only 12 in SUNY to have achieved NYS accreditation, but the culture that met accreditation's standards preceded that. “When I first got here in 1996 it was made clear that this was going to be a learning organization — learning, teaching and growing,” said Wiley. UPD is among only ten percent of all police agencies that require 60 college credits in order to be eligible to hold the position as police officer.

UPD personnel not only meet professionalism standards, but three-fourths of the department are certified in the 80-hour NYS Instructor Development Course, in order to teach others. Two members are certified the NYS Division of Criminal Justices Services as master instructors to teach this course to certify new instructors, and two other members are NYS DCJS Certified Accreditation Assessors, evaluating other agencies that have applied for initial or re accreditation.

In January, the department weighed itself against the standards of the recently released President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and exceeded them in all areas. This included fair and impartial policing, where UPD is achieving best practices in the standards of procedural justice and police legitimacy based on the curriculum established by researcher Tom Tyler in collaboration with the Chicago Police Department..

Fair and impartial policing training was afforded to UPD through a grant created by Distinguished Teaching Professor, James Acker and Distinguished Professor Emeritus, David Bayley, and funded through UAlbany’s Office of Diversity and inclusion. UPD is also backed by a research-based component: an advisory committee, chaired by School of Criminal Justice Assistant Dean Diana Mancini and Associate Professor Robert Worden, an expert scholar in criminal justice accountability and responsiveness.

UPD has in fact become expert in so many areas that it is the lead agency in several Zone 5 Training Academy courses offered to police agencies in a 10-county region.

Put into this light, said Wiley, “our reaccreditation is a symbol of dedication to best practices and policies. It’s of little use if it doesn’t translate into real-world effectiveness. We are doing all the things that translate to better service for our community and better performance out there.

“Of course, there is no guarantee there will be public acknowledgement of what we do, but accreditation and our other accomplishments demonstrate that the best possible policing is being done here.”

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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciencesbusiness, public health, health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.