There are roughly 190 requirements that a sheriff’s office must meet to be accredited by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (VDCJS). The Prince William County Sheriff’s Office nailed every one of them.
According to Prince William County Sheriff Glendell Hill, the Prince William County Sheriff’s Office received a perfect score through an onsite assessment by the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission, which is part of VDCJS. Receiving the perfect score meant that the office didn’t have to go back and make corrections after evaluation by the commission.
Hill said law enforcement agencies seek accreditation for a couple of reasons. “It enhances the community’s understanding of who we are, and it shows our community that we are a professional organization. It also shows our cooperation with other law enforcement agencies within our community and around the state.”
Accreditation comes to organizations that meet the commission’s law enforcement organizational requirements in administration, operations, personnel and training. Accreditation applications are reviewed by the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and the Virginia Sheriff’s Association, according to the commission’s website.
The Prince William County Sheriff’s Office – the first sheriff’s office in the state to receive accreditation – was initially accredited in in 1996 and re-accredited in 2001, 2005 and 2009. “Even though we’re accredited every four years, the staff is complying with standards and keeping files up to date weekly. We’re looking at our policies and procedures all year through to make sure we stay in compliance with the standards set forth by the commission,” Hill said. “Everyone has a role to play with the reports they have to submit.”
Not only do law enforcement agencies have to write good policy, they have to show that officers are following those policies. To confirm that an agency is on top of its game, the commission sends teams to evaluate deputies in the field, said Prince William Sheriff’s Office Maj. Terry P. Fearnley, Jr. “They’re here for three days, and they break up into teams. Some of the teams ride with deputies on the road. Basically, those accreditors ride with the deputies and ask questions to make sure deputies are in compliance with our policy.”
Ultimately, Hill said, the people work to meet the requirements to improve the office. “It makes us a better department. Not only do we show that we’re a professional organization, but those standards are not easy to comply with, so it takes teamwork to make this thing work.”