Dubuque police department spends thousands on accreditation - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque police department spends thousands on accreditation


Whether accreditation is a waste of time and taxpayer dollars or a way to keep the public safe through high standards is the question the Dubuque police department is facing right now.

For 20 years now, the Dubuque police department has been accredited through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), and it's a voluntary accreditation. No higher agency or governing body requires it.

Law enforcement agencies accredited through CALEA have to get re-accredited every three years, which is the process happening right now in Dubuque.

Accreditation, however, costs the department between $15,000 and $16,000 total over the course of those three years, causing some to ask whether it's worth the department's time and money.

A team of CALEA assessors visited the Dubuque police department from Saturday through Tuesday. They reviewed records and talked with members of the department to see if the agency is complying with the 489 professional standards required for re-accreditation.

"They go right down the line from the uniforms to the vehicles to pursuits to laws of arrest," police chief Mark Dalsing listed.

He said accreditation with CALEA costs $4,000 taxpayer dollars per year, between the annual fee and record-keeping software updates. It costs an additional $3,000 to $4,000 on top of that during a re-accreditation year - which happens every three years - to pay for the assessors' visit and a trip to a national CALEA conference for a re-accreditation interview.

"Some people would argue that money could be spent in other ways," Dalsing said, "but for us it's been a good process because it causes us to make sure we're following the best practices, and by looking for the documentation regularly, we know we're following the policies we've set forth."

Corporal Steve Eastvedt performs many duties for the police department, including CALEA accreditation manager. In the weeks leading up to the assessors' visit, Dalsing said, re-accreditation preparation becomes like a full time job for Eastvedt.

"We're applying international best standards practices as an agency, and it's difficult to do. It's a challenge to do, but it also significantly improves our professionalism as an agency," Eastvedt said.

Russ McElwee is a retired police chief and was one of the CALEA assessors reviewing the Dubuque police department.

"It's very similar to accreditation for a university or a hospital, those kinds of things: they have to meet standards," McElwee said.

One of the CALEA re-accreditation requirements is a public input session, which happened Monday evening at the Carnegie Stout Public Library in downtown Dubuque.

At CALEA's summer conference, Dalsing and several other Dubuque police department representatives will have an interview with a CALEA panel. Soon thereafter they will learn whether CALEA will grant the department re-accreditation, good for another three years.

More than 1,000 law enforcement agencies are accredited through CALEA, eight of which are in Iowa. Those are the police departments in Dubuque, Iowa City, Davenport, Muscatine, Sioux City and West Des Moines, as well as the Marshall County Sheriff's Office and Iowa Department of Public Safety.

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