This long-awaited week marks the last of two final steps in achieving the "gold standard" in certification for the Conyers Police Department as assessors are in town for an intense review of the department.
Over the past two years, hundreds of hours have been spent preparing the department for the CALEA International Accreditation application process. CALEA stands for Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, and achieving the CALEA distinction is the "gold standard" in law enforcement and the flagship of certification internationally, according to CPD Major Scott Freeman.
"So far we have seen nothing but excellent service and performance guidelines from this department, and we anticipate we are going to see the same thing the next two days," Lead CALEA assessor Robert Morgan said during a public meeting held Wednesday. "I want to compliment Chief (Gene) Wilson on that. Our responsibility as assessors for the commission is to visit the agency and verify that it is in compliance. This public hearing is intended to provide interested citizens or employees of the agency an opportunity to address the assessment team concerning the agency."
Morgan and Bowling Green, Ohio Police Chief Tony Hetrick arrived Tuesday to begin the rigorous evaluation of the 464-point list of standards encompassing all facets of law enforcement management, operations and support functions required to meet CALEA approval. The assessors will be reviewing the department's required criteria through Friday. A meeting inviting public input Wednesday was part of the process, and several area officials and supporters, including long-time Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton, spoke in support of the department.
"I've watched them exemplify themselves as an agency that should be accredited," Chief Cotton told the assessors. "The staff has always been committed to being a professional agency whenever we needed to work with them or whenever I've been to this town as a civilian I've never seen anything but good things from this agency and this staff and their commitment to providing professional law enforcement services. I'm proud to be their neighbors." He also said the Covington Police Department has been CALEA accredited for 27 years and he praised Chief Wilson's ability to lead the Conyers' Police Department toward achieving the same.
Rockdale County State Court Judge Nancy Bills, who also provided support during the meeting, said her office works with the police department extensively in court and in the community.
"I have always found them to be professional, reliable, courteous and to have the utmost integrity, and I completely support their accreditation."
Judge Bills was followed by Georgia State Patrol Monroe Post Commander Doug Wilson, who worked for the Conyers Police Department for five years before joining the GSP.
"Chief Wilson and I have built a great relationship and he is very professional," Commander Wilson stated. "I'd like to see this process go through - everything we have ever needed they have been more than more than willing to accommodate us."
Other speakers attending Wednesday in support of the CALEA accreditation were Major Harry McCann of Georgia Piedmont Technical College Law Enforcement Academy and Rockdale County Public Schools Safety Director Andra Cherry, both former CPD employees, as well as STARS Coordinator Susan Paul Smith.
The final decision will be made in Jacksonville in November, when CALEA commissioners will review the assessors' report and vote on approval. Anyone wishing to submit a comment before then can send an email to Calea@calea.org with 'Conyers Police Department' in the subject line.