ORONO, Maine — Members of the University of Maine community will have an opportunity this weekend to offer comments on their Police Department as part of its effort to attain a prestigious national certification.
The University of Maine Police Department is among three in the area that are up for accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, or CALEA, a process that began two years ago, UMPD Lt. Paul Paradis said this week.
When UMPD officials decided to seek CALEA accreditation, they invited its counterparts in Orono and Old Town to go along on the three-year journey, Paradis said.
Leading the effort for those departments are Orono police Capt. Josh Ewing and Old Town Deputy Police Chief Kyle Smart.
On Tuesday, Smart said it made sense for the three to work together toward accreditation because parts of the campus are located in both communities.
Ewing added that the departments frequently back one another up in times of need and that all three serve populations that include UMaine students and staff.
In order to earn accreditation, the three police departments must show and document that they comply with 112 national standards that address policy and procedures, management, operations and support services.
In telephone interviews on Tuesday, Ewing and Smart said they and their departments have benefited from — and learned from — the accreditation process, which began with a rigorous self-assessment, followed by months of work on policies and procedures.
For UMPD, the next step in the process comes this weekend when an assessor from CALEA visits the campus to see the Police Department in action and gather comment from the community, Paradis said.
To that end, the assessor, Chief Paul Willingham of the University of Houston Clear Lake in Texas, will seek comment from campus Police Department members, faculty and staff, students and others.
Comments must address the agency’s ability to comply with CALEA standards, which can be seen in the chief’s office.
Comments may be submitted by telephone by calling 581-9426 from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday and by posting them on the Notes tab of UMPD’s Facebook page, said Paradis, who serves as training and development manager for his department.
Comments also can be mailed to CALEA at 13575 Heathcote Blvd., Suite 320 Gainesville, Va. 20155, or faxed to 703-890-3126.
Also while here, Willingham will review written materials, conduct interviews and visit offices and other places where compliance can be seen firsthand.
Once Willingham completes his review, he will report back to the full commission, which then will decide whether the agency is to be granted recognition, according to Paradis.
Onsite assessments at the Orono and Old Town police departments are set for the week of March 12-17. Details will be released closer to that time.
In announcing this weekend’s onsite assessment at the UMaine campus, UMPD Chief Roland LaCroix said the accreditation will show that the department has met the commission’s state-of-the-art standards as part of a voluntary process to gain accreditation — a highly prized recognition of public safety professional excellence.
Ewing said Tuesday that only 1 to 2 percent of the nation’s police departments obtain CALEA accreditation.
“To become part of that elite group, I think, is great,” he said. He added that the three departments are responsible for ensuring that students, while here, have a “safe, secure opportunity to live and learn.”
As it stands, only two Maine police departments and one dispatch center have achieved CALEA accreditation. They are the Lewiston and Auburn police departments and the emergency dispatch center that serves them, Paradis said.
Smart said that barring any snags, all three departments will learn this summer whether they will be granted accreditation.
Accreditation is for three years, during which accredited agencies must submit annual reports attesting continued compliance with the national standards.
For information about the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, visit www.calea.org.