By: Lexie Soro and Lexi Ayala
Meridian Township Police Department located on 5151 Marsh Rd, Okemos, MI. Credit: Lexie Soro
On behalf of the Meridian Township Police Department, three officers accept an award from the Michigan Law Enforcement at the Meridian Township Board meeting on Feb. 18, 2020. Credit: Lexi Ayala
Ken Plaga spoke to what the accreditation certificate means for the Meridian Township community:
The Meridian Township Police Department accepted a nationally recognized certificate of accreditation award from the Michigan Law Enforcement Accreditation Program.
The award added Meridian Township’s police department to a list of 24 police departments throughout Michigan that have already been recognized.
THE BEGINNING STEPS
“The reason that we did it is because we want to follow best practices,” said Ken Plaga, police chief.
In early February 2019, the Meridian Township board voted unanimously to support the Meridian Township Police Department’s hearing to voluntarily adopt the standards of the Michigan Law Enforcement Accreditation Program and begin the year-long process.
Accreditation acknowledges the implementation of written directives, policies and procedures that are conceptually sound and operationally effective.
“This is a great community that we live in, and we want to make sure that we maintain our level of service,” Plaga said.
To maintain their level of service, the Meridian Township Police Department invited the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police to visit Meridian Township and observe how they operate in their department as a whole.
The Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police is a progressive association that helps law enforcement agencies calculate and improve their overall performances.
These improvements are developed through the use of the voluntary Law Enforcement Accreditation Program in Michigan and an appointed accreditation manager within the department.
THE NEXT STEP
Meridian Township Lieutenant Rick Grillo said that before heading to the commission for the final time, they had to make sure all of their ducks were in a row.
“Once we get our standards and we feel like we’re finished, we let them know at the commission, and they send out two assessors to our department,” Grillo said. “They stay here for a couple of days, looking through all of our standards, going through the building and all of our facilities.”
The assessors came to Meridian Township in December 2019, and the final commission hearing was held on Feb. 6, 2020 to review the final report and vote on accrediting the agency.
The Onsite Final Report states that after a thorough review of the files for compliance conducted, it was determined that the Meridian Township Police Department is in compliance with all of the established accreditation standards.
SHOWING WHAT THEY KNOW
Director of Accreditation Neal Rossow said the police departments are also responsible for showing proof they are able to perform the listed tasks provided in the standard guidelines.
“We have 105 standards that are state and national best practices, and the organization has to take those 105 standards, and they have to create written directives that meet the standards,” Rossow said.
Rossow also said they have to create “proofs” to show outsiders they are following the written directives that follow the standards.
Founded in 1924, the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police is now governed by a 19-member Board of Directors, representing all geographical areas within the state.
“We have two outsiders come in that are trained by the commission, and they go through all of their files, their 105 files, and make sure that they’re doing what they say they’re doing,” said Bob Stevenson, executive director of Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.
Some of the material covered within the programs’ standards are: recruitment of sworn personnel, personal benefits and responsibilities, public information and use of force.
SURROUNDED BY EXCELLENCE
“The impact of the community is that they should be certain that their police department is doing things at best standards,” Plaga said.
The Meridian Township Police Department has now voluntarily accomplished what 95% of the other police departments in the state have not done at this particular time.
“It’s something that I know our people here at the township and police department worked really hard at,” said Ron J. Styka, supervisor of Meridian Township board.
Stevenson said that while the accreditation program is something that a lot of police departments would like to attain, they don’t for a variety of reasons. Some of those being; the time commitment and dedication that goes into it.
He also noted that many police departments reportedly are down in staff numbers and don’t have the ability to devote the time and resources as a result of that.
“It’s time-intensive and you need to have a talented person to do it,” Stevenson said.
After going through the accreditation process, they’ve become an even better police department and they have a certificate to show for it.
“I think that sometimes when you’re surrounded by excellence, you don’t recognize how great that excellence truly is,” Stevenson said. “I will tell you I’ve been around the state of Michigan, and I’ve seen a lot of police departments, and you have an excellent police department.”