JEFFERSON — The Jefferson Police Department is looking to join the ranks of dozens of other departments statewide by regaining its certification through the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police.
“Before I arrived in Jefferson, the department was certified once before, back in 2000, but there was never any follow up to that,” said Police Chief Joe Wirthman. “A department has to get recertification every three years, but apparently nothing was done before I joined the department in 2006. Because we were so far behind, we had to go back to square one and start all over instead of just getting recertified.”
The Gainesville Police and Hall County Sheriff’s departments are among those statewide that are currently certified.
In order to receive certification, a department must complete several steps — including developing and following through with departmental policies, being assessed by the association and having their application reviewed by a committee. The policies that local departments implement must coincide with the standards that the chief’s association has deemed “essential to the efficient and effective operation of law enforcement.”
According to the chief’s association, the benefits of certification include “greater governmental and community support, confirmation that agency practices are consistent with progressive professional standards and greater administrative effectiveness.”
Having a set of standardized policies and state certification can also save the local police departments money on litigation.
“By setting policy, it covers the city and department from liability in many cases,” said Wirthman. “Say for instance if one of our policies is that we don’t allow high speed pursuits and one of our officers chooses to chase someone and has an accident. In that instance, the city and department would be covered from liability.”
According to Wirthman, a three-person evaluation team has already visited the department and has recommended that the Jefferson office receive certification. The next step is for the certification board to take action, Wirthman said. The department expects to know the final status of its certification application soon.