CLEARWATER — The Clearwater police chief is hoping to get good grades for how well he and his fellow officers are running the city’s law enforcement.
A team of assessors from the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation arrived at the police department’s offices at 645 Pierce St. on April 23 and began reviewing computer printouts, letters from citizens, logs, rosters, evaluations, budget documents, incident reports and other documents in the department’s files.
The goal: To gauge how well Chief Daniel Slaughter, his fellow officers, and non-uniformed staff comply with approximately 260 policing standards — many of which are critical to life, health and safety issues.
The assessment team is made up of law enforcement officials from other agencies who also will interview individuals and interview employees in various department offices to determine their levels of compliance, officials said.
“Verification by the team that the agency meets the commission's standards is part of a voluntary process to gain or maintain accreditation — a highly prized recognition of law enforcement professional excellence,” said Sgt. Todd Turpack, accreditation manager for the Clearwater police.
Lt. Todd Johnson of the police department’s Office of Professional Standards, told the Beacon this is not the department’s first CFA review.
“The agency has been accredited through CFA since 1998 and seeks re-accreditation every three years,” Johnson said. “When the agency successfully reaches its fifth re-accreditation, we are designated as an Excelsior agency. With this re-accreditation, we are seeking our third Excelsior designation.”
Here is a partial list of the categories, from the CFA assessors’ handbook:
• Use of force: Is the department following written policies that specify when and to what degree lethal and less-lethal force can be used? Clearwater police must describe the weapons that may be used and provide training in use of force policies for officers.
• Interview room: Are the physical needs of suspects, detainees, or prisoners being met? It also includes the physical condition of holding cells, the interview room itself, and security to ensure the safety of the detainees, suspects, officers and employees of the department.
• Property forfeitures: Is the department following property procedures for seizing contraband and personal property? Does the department comply with the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act?
• Technology: Do employees comply with IT security rules to limit unauthorized access to case information? Are officers and employees using the department’s email professionally? Are they posting only appropriate messages or images on social media?
• Criminal intelligence: Is the department collecting, processing and disseminating information to those that need it from organized crime, vice, illegal drug activity, terrorism, gang activity, and other sources?
• Financial management, prisoner-detainee transportation, special operations and other practices also will be evaluated.
In the use of force area, the city of Clearwater faces a $15,000 civil suit for allegedly using excessive force on an arrestee in September 2015. The defendant officer, Jeff Williams, received a one-day suspension for “use of force contrary to policy” and was required to attend a one-day course in de-escalation, an internal affairs report on the arrest shows. Williams was also removed from the department’s elite Emergency Response Team for two years.
Once the review is complete, the assessment team will report back to the full commission, which will then decide if the agency is to receive re-accredited status.
“As part of the on-site assessment, agency members and the general public are invited to offer comments to the assessment team,” said Rob Shaw, the department’s public information officer. A copy of the standards is available by contacting Shaw at 727-562-4333.
The public is asked to mail written comments about the police department’s ability to meet law enforcement accreditation standards to CFA, P.O. Box 1489, Tallahassee, Fla., 32302.
Juli Brown from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is the CFA assessment team leader; other members include Doug Robertson from the Wilton Manors Police Department and Heather Bailey from the Clay County Sheriff's Office.
The CFA commissioners will vote on the department’s re-accreditation in June, Johnson told the Beacon.