RICHMOND — After more than a year of reaching for accreditation, the Richmond Police Department was officially recognized as an accredited agency at Tuesday's city commission meeting.
"This has been a very extensive process to achieve accreditation," Ebert said. But he's not new to the process, as he had gone through it when he worked with the Frankfort Police Department. That experience also shaped the way he went about earning it for RPD.
"That process seemed very rushed and had little-to-no input from rank and file officers. So, it made me feel as we could do our process a little better," he explained. "On the front end, our process was slower, because we took input from all levels of the department on many topics. By doing this, we had a much better buy-in to the process than I had experienced at Frankfort."
Ebert said his department started the process of becoming accredited in earnest in January, 2018, but he started talking about it with staff in October 2016, when he was first sworn into office. He attributed a lot of the department's success to RPD employees.
"Almost everyone of the current members had something to do with the accreditation process, so we all have a shared sense of accomplishment," he said.
And it wasn't easy for him or the department. The process to become accredited starts "with the commitment to be great," Ebert said. "Next is the commitment … to the process."
It starts with submitting paperwork, which is followed up with self-evaluation.
"During the self-evaluation phase, each agency looks at the accreditation standards and where they sit compared to those standards," Ebert explained. "It's here when you adjust policies, procedures and logistics. During this time, agencies also work with the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police to ensure compliance with the standards is happening."
When the department believes it's ready for a formal evaluation, inspectors from accredited agencies visit the department, examining all aspects of the department against accreditation standards. If the standards are met, the agency is recommended to the accreditation board, and if approved, two presentations follow: one for the local government and one for the Chief of Police Conference in July.
Ebert said there were two big challenges RPD had to overcome during the process: administration and logistics.
"Administratively we started this process behind in several critical areas, one of which was polices," he said. "Our policy/produce manual is like a (guide) book to help officers and supervisors know what to do in many different scenarios. The good news was on the streets we were doing most everything correct -- we just lacked the policies to back our efforts up."
He explained some of RPD's policies hadn't been reviewed or revised for a considerable amount of time, which exposes the department, its officers and Richmond to additional legal liabilities.
"The accreditation process made us take a hard look at our policies, review them, revise them and even adopt new ones," Ebert said. "Our updated policy manual reflects some of the highest known policies used throughout the commonwealth."
The department also had to address record storage and retention.
"Previously we held on to every document, even longer than required by law. The state sets very clear records retention timelines for the majority of the documents we handle. We now store, retain and destroy documents according to state retention standards," Ebert said.
On the logistics side of things, Ebert said, going through the accreditation process led to positive changes for the department.
"Accreditation standards require evidence that is money, drug or firearms be stored with additional level of security beyond being stored in the evidence room," he explained. "These requirements not only make sense, but help to reduce law enforcement liability. These changes and others have been a great benefit to our agency."
Despite the challenges, Ebert knew accreditation was worth pursuing.
"We want to be the best version of our self we can be," he said. "When I got here, we decided as a collective whole that we wanted to be the gold standard in law enforcement statewide and beyond. We take incredible pride in the work we are doing day-in and day-out in law enforcement and community service we do.
"Accreditation allows (us) to show the citizens we serve, local politicians, and our law enforcement peers that we have vetted against some of the state's highest standards, and we meet or exceed those standards. In short, I owed it to our officers and the community we serve to keep the department striving to high standards of excellence."
He also explained that with RPD being an accredited agency, he hopes the department's practices will only become stronger in the future.
"Operationally, I feel the general (public) will not notice major changes, but hopefully (will) walk away with even more (of a) positive experience from their interaction with the Richmond Police Department," he said.
For more information about what it means for an agency to be accredited, visit kypolicechiefs.org/accreditation/law-enforcement-accreditation-program/.
Reach Sara Kuhl at 624-6626; follow her on Twitter @saraekuhl.