It is one thing to be in compliance with the standards expected of all police units, but quite another to be “ahead of the curve” and serve as a model for other agencies.
“That is exactly what Stony Brook University’s campus police force is doing,” said Kathleen Galvin, who is part of the command staff in the University Police Department (UPD).
UPD first received New York State accreditation in 2010, was re-accredited in 2015 and then again this past December. The Accreditation Program is a progressive way of assisting police agencies to improve their performances. For an agency to be considered, it must meet or exceed 111 standards identified by the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).
“These standards and best practices evolve over time to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of law enforcement agencies, ensure appropriate training for law enforcement personnel, and promote public confidence in law enforcement agencies,” said Galvin, who is inspector, training and crime analysis, at UPD.
Police departments review and assess their policies and procedures frequently to ensure best practices and keep up with current trends. They maintain detailed records to prove compliance, culminating in a rigorous re-accreditation assessment every five years. The process includes on-site visits, examination of written policies, and interviews with members testing their knowledge of and adherence to those policies.
In 2009, former UPD Chief Robert Lenahan made it a priority for UPD to become an accredited agency, and Stony Brook received its first accreditation award a year later.
In Stony Brook’s most recent assessment, UPD was recognized for its comprehensive emergency mobilization plan and performance evaluations. The assessor, recently retired Lt. Margaret Belles, Village of Tuckahoe Police Department, noted that UPD is “a dynamic, progressive and professional department and had done an outstanding job maintaining its accreditation status.”
Twenty of the standards in the accreditation program are identified as critical, such as use of force, and property held as evidence for a case. Officers must have a minimum of 21 hours of in-service training per year, which includes firearms training, legal updates, and use of force or use of deadly force reviews.
“We definitely consider this the minimum and our officers have the benefit of more training throughout the year to increase their skills, knowledge and professionalism,” said Galvin.
Additional current trends in law enforcement that factor into accreditation include the use of body-worn cameras.
“We strive to promote public confidence on a day-to-day level by being transparent and visible within the community,” said Galvin. “We have a dedicated community relations team that runs a citizens’ police academy and provides training to the community.”
That includes the use of Narcan, a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose; CPR; Stop the Bleed, which encourages bystanders to become trained, equipped and empowered to help in a bleeding emergency before professional help arrives; active shooter preparedness; and self-defense. All officers receive ongoing training in fair and impartial policing, verbal de-escalation, and mental health first aid.
“We also foster personal interactions to build mutual trust by participating in events such as Coffee With a Cop and Undergraduate Student Government Game Day,” Galvin said.
Notably, preparing for accreditation doesn’t happen just before a site visit. The UPD takes an active role in maintaining its accreditation files. “Prior to the actual site visit, we check and doublecheck every file and ensure that proper documentation and proof of compliance are in every folder. The accreditation assessor is usually on site for three days from early in the morning until the evening,” Galvin said. “On the last day, we have a final review in the afternoon with the assessor, chief of police and any other university stakeholders.”
Site assessments are scheduled in advance, and any officer on duty may be observed and queried by the assessment team. The questions pertain to response to incidents such as domestic violence, the department’s sexual harassment policy, and patrol vehicle response. Assessors do not interfere with service calls but may observe and ask questions after the call has ended. They will also interview administrative staff as well as a union representative for the officers.
Scott Rodriguez, who has been with UPD for seven years and represents the police officers and investigators as the local delegate for the PBA of New York State, was interviewed at the most recent visit.
“Many cops in other police departments really do not get an intimate look of what goes into running a state-accredited police force. Here at Stony Brook, we have the privilege of being a smaller agency, much like a small family,” Rodriguez said. “Our management and the police officers who work under them have a great relationship.”
Rodriguez said the UPD clearly exceeds the DCJS requirements. “Specifically in training, we do not only train for the DCJS standard, we have enhanced trainings to meet the needs of the campus community,” he said.
UPD officers recently were sent to the Suffolk County Police Academy to train on how to better handle people suffering from mental health emergencies. “Our police department ensures that their police officers are equipped with every possible tool to handle any situation,” Rodriguez said.
While ongoing training improves overall performance, recognition is a proven incentive as well. Officers are recognized through programs such as Officer of the Quarter, as well as awards from the SUNY Chiefs of Police. Fourteen members of the UPD were honored at the annual SUNY Police Chiefs Association Awards last month.
Neil Farrell, who oversees investigations and various compliance programs for the department and is the assistant chief of investigations and administration, is one of the main players ensuring that standards are exceeded. He is the program manager for the accreditation program, ensuring appropriate training for officers and updating policies and procedures.
Galvin, who is part of the team that assists Farrell in maintaining accreditation compliance, focuses on researching training based on trends, new legislation and the evolving needs of the campus community. They have been working on advanced training for all UPD personnel in response to mental health incidents as well as verbal de-escalation techniques.
Other key personnel include Alyssa Byrnes, administrative coordinator of compliance reporting, accreditation and training; Ralph Stears, a communications and security specialist who works in the Central Records Division; and Interim Chief Lawrence Zacarese.
“The benefit of being an accredited agency is that we thereby attain a level of professionalism within the field of law enforcement,” Galvin said. “We are on equal footing with our surrounding police agencies and follow the same guidelines. There is enormous pride for the officers and leaders that accreditation brings.”
— Glenn Jochum