The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, an international authority that provides standards for law enforcement, is assessing the UT police department’s policies and operations this week.
Lt. Darrell Birdett said the CALEA officials examine whether the department is following a variety of standards set by the agency, including use of force and disciplinary procedures. Birdett said UTPD met CALEA standards on its first assessment in 2007 and has since been re-accredited twice.
“Accreditation shows a level of professionalism and that we’ve met the standards for the best practices that they set out,” Birdett said.
The assessment has previously been performed every three years, but the agency will now review the department once every four years.
While the assessment was already scheduled and not a response to the recent homicide on campus, several parents raised concerns about inadequate lighting in certain areas and the homeless community.
Joell Sullivan-McNew, member of Texas Parents’ Association, said she compiled a list of responses from 115 parents in the organization and spoke on various collective parental concerns about safety on campus during the forum.
“I’m really hoping for change and action,” Sullivan-McNew said. “Not only from parents, but I’m hoping that Student Government gets involved as well and incorporates safety and awareness into orientation.”
Washington said he advises parents to speak with the UTPD if they have additional concerns about the safety of their children.
“Getting to know the police department more is a relationship that you build if you have concerns,” Washington said. “It takes all of us in order for things to work out for the best.”
Birdett said interviews with community members, business owners and department employees are just as important as reviewing documents to determine how well the department meets the required standards.
As part of the on-site evaluation, community members and agency employees were invited to offer their comments and provide feedback at a public forum Monday afternoon in the Student Activity Center.
Two CALEA assessors not affiliated with UT, Blythe Frausto and Capt. Zandral Washington, led the meeting.
After the review is complete, Frausto said they file a report based on observations, and the commission decides whether to accredit the agency or not.
Birdett said the results are released to the department in July.
Frausto said it is important to incorporate public comment to understand the community’s perspectives on UTPD’s performance and what changes they think
could be made.
“[Feedback] is really one of the tenets of the commission for accreditation because we want to see how they work within the community and to ensure that the community is a part of the agency and vice versa,” Frausto said.
Other accredited university police departments include those at California State University-Fullerton, California State University-Los Angeles and the University of Washington.