Department of Public Safety Becomes First in State to Win Accreditation

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - 12:00pm

For immediate release
February 15, 2005

SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. - The Mount Holyoke College Department of Public Safety has become the first college or university campus safety department in the state to receive accreditation status from the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission, Inc., becoming one of only fifteen agencies statewide to achieve this status.

Accreditation is a self-initiated evaluation process by which law enforcement departments strive to meet and maintain standards that have been established for the profession, by the profession. These carefully selected standards reflect critical areas of police management, operations, and technical support activities. They cover areas such as policy development, emergency response planning, training, communications, property and evidence handling, use of force, and prisoner transportation. The program not only sets standards for the law enforcement profession within the commonwealth, but also for the delivery of police services to the community.

Achieving accreditation from the commission is the highest award given, and is a recognition that is highly regarded by the law enforcement community. Participating in the program and achieving accreditation status allows departments to demonstrate that they are among the finest in the state. The status of accreditation is granted for a period of three years. Participation in the program is strictly voluntary.

Under the leadership of Director Paul Ominsky, the Mount Holyoke College Department of Public Safety underwent a two-day assessment in December by a team of commission-appointed assessors. The assessment team found the department to be in compliance with all 103 mandatory standards. And although the department was required to meet 60 percent of the 121 optional standards, it was found to be in compliance with 68 percent of those standards exceeding the required minimum. Accreditation was awarded on January 28, 2005.

"I am extremely proud of this well-deserved accomplishment by the Department of Public Safety," Ominsky said. "This is truly a tribute to the professionalism of the men and women of this department, and to the College's commitment to safety and security on our campus. We work closely with the community to maintain high levels of safety for all who live, work, study, and visit here."

Going through the process initially requires intense self-scrutiny, and ultimately provides a quality assurance review of the agency. In 1999, Ominsky appointed Barbara Arrighi and Jeanne Tripp to serve as the department's accreditation managers. The department achieved certification, a halfway point to accreditation, in June 2003. This involved meeting 151 mandatory standards. The department was also the first college or university to attain that status. The accreditation managers were aided greatly in this effort by three Mount Holyoke College student administrative fellows: Sarah E. Hayes '05, Kirkley B. Strand '04, Stephanie M. Liotta '03.

Although the director's goal for the department has been achieved, Arrighi's and Tripp's job is not done, however. Their focus will now shift to monitoring and maintaining compliance with these standards and preparing for scheduled reviews by the Commission as they continue as the department's accreditation managers.

To date, only 15 police agencies in the commonwealth have achieved the distinction of accreditation: Amesbury, Amherst, Danvers, Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, Mendon, Mount Holyoke College, Northampton, Northborough, Peabody, Rowley, Sturbridge, Truro, Waltham, Watertown, and Weston.

ORIGIN AND COMPOSITION OF THE COMMISSION

The mission of the accreditation commission is to ensure that the delivery of police services within the commonwealth is at the highest level of professionalism and integrity.

The Massachusetts Accreditation Commission was originally established in 1996 through the combined efforts of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Coalition and the Executive Office of Public Safety. In February 2004 the commission transitioned from a state agency into a private non-profit organization. The Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission, Inc. maintained the same standards, and recognized certification and accreditation status awarded by the state agency.

The commission is comprised of eleven members appointed through the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police, the Massachusetts Police Association, the Massachusetts Municipal Association, and the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Coalition, as well as a representative from an academic institution with demonstrated expertise in deliverance of law enforcement and public safety services.

BENEFITS OF ACCREDITATION

The standards for accreditation impact officer and public safety, address high liability/risk management issues, and promote operational efficiency throughout the agency. The benefits of accreditation are many and will vary among participating departments based on the state of the department when it enters the process. In other words, the benefits will be better known when the department quantifies the changes that it had to make as a direct result of achieving accreditation. Generally, these changes involve policy writing, facility improvements and equipment purchases. Listed below are some of the more common benefits of the program status:

Accreditation:

  • provides a norm for an agency to judge its performance.
  • provides a basis to correct deficiencies before they become public problems.
  • requires agencies to commit policies and procedures to writing.
  • promotes accountability among agency personnel and the evenhanded application of policies.
  • provides a means of independent evaluation of agency operations.
  • minimizes an agency's exposure to liability, builds a stronger defense against lawsuits and citizen complaints, and has the potential to reduce liability insurance costs.
  • enhances the reputation of the agency and increases the public's confidence in it.

Recent events in America and throughout the world underscore the need to reassure the general public that the law enforcement profession is prepared, trained, and ready to handle future emergencies and calls for service. Agency preparedness begins with having a formal written directive system that incorporates professional state-of-the-art standards into agency policy, rules, procedures, and plans. By achieving accreditation, the Mount Holyoke College Department of Public Safety demonstrates its capabilities to respond to the public safety needs of the community.

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