Chief: ‘Police yourself better’

The Lafayette Police Department is in the final stage of its bid to win national accreditation, a process that began in 2010 and involves proving compliance with more than 400 law enforcement standards.

An assessment team from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies is in Lafayette this week to review policies and procedures and interview officers.

“We go into the guts and the bowels of the agency,” said Steve Seefchak, a Florida law enforcement officer who is on the CALEA assessment team.

He said that seeking the voluntary accreditation shows that an agency is “taking steps to be better than what they are, in a sense.”

The Police Department began the accreditation process in November 2010, reviewing and tweaking policies and procedures that govern all aspects of the department’s work, Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said.

“We feel it’s important to be as professional an agency as we can,” Craft said.

He said achieving accreditation can help build trust in the community and can also reduce liabilities for the department.

“It teaches you to police yourself better,” Craft said.

The visit by the CALEA assessment team is the final stage of the accreditation process.

The team will report its findings back to the full CALEA commission, which is expected to make a decision by the spring, Craft said.

Lafayette had sought accreditation once before in the 1980s but did not complete the process.

“There was a change in administration and in the budget, and we dropped out,” Craft said.

The Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office obtained accreditation in 2003, and Craft said that he set accreditation for the city’s Police Department as a priority when he was appointed the chief’s post in 2007.

Seefchak presided over a public meeting on Monday to hear any concerns from residents about the department — a required part of the assessment process.

Only two residents spoke, both offering brief comments in support of the local department.

Agencies in Louisiana that have achieved CALEA law enforcement accreditation are the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Baton Rouge Police Department, the Slidell Police Department, the West Monroe Police Department and the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Agencies must be re-accredited every three years.