CALEA Accreditation Standards: An Overview

The gold standard for public safety agencies, CALEA accreditation is an important, ongoing effort. Here’s a rundown of the accreditation process.

Tricia, Senior Consultant at ClearPoint, leverages her 4+ years of performance management experience when working with customers to improve their reporting and strategy execution.

How do you know if a public safety agency is performing at the highest level? Or if a police department is working to strengthen the services it offers to the community? For organizations within the public safety industry, earning accreditations is one of the best ways to ensure (and demonstrate) continuous improvement.

CALEA accreditation is the gold standard for public safety agencies, and becoming certified can have big benefits for both agencies and the people they serve. While the certification process is far from being a piece of cake, it is more than worth the effort. In this article, we’ll break down the basic steps involved in accreditation and why it’s so important.

What is CALEA?

CALEA is an acronym for the Commission on Accreditation For Law Enforcement Agencies. Established in 1979, this is an international certification for public safety agencies. It requires organizations such as police departments to benchmark and report on 483 standards to achieve accreditation. There are four different types of CALEA accreditation programs:

  • Law Enforcement: The program focuses on standards for a law enforcement agency’s life, health, and safety procedures. It addresses high-risk issues in contemporary environments, basic community service expectations, and critical event management. This is the most popular CALEA certification and the focus of this article.
  • Communications: Communications departments of public safety agencies pursue this accreditation, which involves a systematic review and internal assessment of their operations and procedures.
  • Training Academy: Geared for organizations that train public safety officials, this program focuses on standards for both basic and advanced curriculums. These standards include instructional techniques, facilities management, student safety, records, and more.
  • Campus Security: Focusing on the safety of students, this program is designed for campus security organizations. The standards encompass issues such as facility risks, regulatory reporting, preventive patrol, etc.

Overall, the goal of the CALEA accreditation process is to improve the management of public safety resources.

Why pursue CALEA accreditation?

There are plenty of reasons public safety agencies put in the time and effort to earn CALEA accreditation. Here are the top five benefits:

  • Lower Liability Insurance Costs: Insurance companies recognize that an organization has lowered its risk profile by meeting industry standards, which often translates into reimbursements for extra resources spent on accreditation and related trainings.
  • Fewer Civil Lawsuits: By putting strong, industry-best policies and procedures in place, accredited institutions are less exposed to liability and can better defend themselves against civil suits.
  • Improved Community Relationships: Tracking and reporting on the 400+ CALEA standards helps organizations gain public support. Accreditation shows that a public safety agency is holding itself accountable to perform at higher levels, which builds trust with citizens.

Tracking and reporting on the 400+ CALEA standards helps organizations gain public support. Accreditation shows that a public safety agency is holding itself accountable to perform at higher levels. Click To Tweet

  • Better Resource Management: Organizations invariably uncover gaps in resources and operations when reporting on all of CALEA’s standards. After being identified, those gaps can be addressed and corrected to improve overall management, allowing for early intervention of potential problems.
  • Improved Internal Morale: Protecting public safety can often be a thankless job. Plus, getting accredited is no easy task—the process can take up to 26 months. Earning CALEA honors is a way to celebrate the hard work of public safety employees, both during the accreditation process and in their daily jobs.

How To Achieve CALEA Accreditation

Becoming CALEA certified is a five-step process:

1. Enrollment

First things first. Public safety agencies must complete the online enrollment form on CALEA’s website.

2. Self-Assessment

This second step arguably requires the most effort and is an intensive period of internal review. At this point, an organization must begin to organize and track the hundreds of mandatory standards. This includes identifying methods to collect data from various parts of your organization and starting to track and report on it. Self-assessment requires the careful review of the CALEA standards to determine if your agency is compliant. The initial self-assessment timeline for law enforcement agencies is 36 months.

Most public safety departments use software to manage their certification standards. There are various systems that are built to handle all 483 CALEA standards, and ClearPoint can be used in tandem to track and report on the standards that relate to your strategic plan. There will be a handful of important, “big picture” standards your leadership will want to see as part of your strategy reporting.

3. Assessment

The assessment includes remote, online file reviews and an on-site visit to confirm compliance with CALEA standards. A CALEA team member will remotely review the public safety agency's documentation—assembled in the previous step—to verify compliance. Once verified, a CALEA review team visits the organization to conduct an in-person, on-site assessment. This includes mapping process and outcomes related to standards, interviewing members of the public safety department, and gathering community feedback. After the on-site assessment, the review team will report back to the CALEA commission with findings.

4. Commission Review and Decision

The Board of CALEA Commissioners makes the final decision as to whether an organization will become accredited. The commissioners review the on-site review team’s report and also hold a public review hearing to discuss the findings of the assessment with representatives from the public safety agency. After this hearing, a decision on accreditation will be rendered.

5. Reaccreditation

Public safety departments must apply for reaccreditation every three years. Yet tracking and reporting on CALEA standards is ongoing. This is a continual quality and performance assessment exercise for organizations. It’s critically important to keep tracking all benchmarks in order to demonstrate compliance at a moment’s notice—not just once every three years.

Per CALEA, “[Reaccreditation] is accomplished by providing consistent reaccreditation maintenance, tracking agency performance, and identifying changes to agency procedures over the preceding review period. It is important for the agency to keep abreast of the accreditation process during this period.”

How ClearPoint Can Help With CALEA Accreditation

ClearPoint can be a useful tool to help you manage the ongoing and lengthy process of applying for CALEA certification. Here are a few highlights of how our software can make the accreditation steps easier:

  • Organizations are required to have a multi-year strategic plans in place in order to receive the CALEA accreditation. ClearPoint makes it easy to track and report on these strategic plans.

Need help plotting out your strategic plan? Use one of these free templates to guide you through the planning process.

  • Efficiently track and report on benchmarks that relate to your organization’s larger strategic goals. You can create custom dashboards to suit CALEA’s formatting requirements and pull the data needed to prove you met a specific standard.
  • Manage tasks and action items with project management features like Gantt charts.

CALEA Gantt chart

  • Monitor your completion rate of the Standard Proof of Compliance, which is required for reaccreditation.

Monitoring CALEA Standard Proof of Compliance (required for reaccreditation)

If your agency is currently relying on Excel to manage all these standards, our software can help with that, too. The ClearPoint Data Loader allows you to upload Excel sheets to our system and automatically sync the data. You can move information from Excel to ClearPoint and back again, without having any version control or data quality issues.

Get the process started.

Taking on the CALEA accreditation process is no easy task, but we’re here to help keep you organized and manage the process at the most strategic levels. Get a live demo of how ClearPoint can help you earn CALEA certification.

CALEA Accreditation Standards: An Overview